Monday, 9 July 2012

No-one could ever call me perfect

It’s Monday morning and I’ve started the week as I mean to go on – being human! 

I sent out a routine email asking people coming to a meeting later this week to confirm their attendance.  Only after I had sent it did I realise that I had accidentally inserted one person’s name into the subject bar.  This gave the impression that they were for some reason being singled out.  I hope my quick apologetic follow-up email corrected any misunderstanding and injected a bit of humour into the start of the week, allowing everyone to get on with far more important matters.

This got me thinking about how the need to be perfect can be very disabling.  There have been times when I’ve worried over how to improve a piece of work to such an extent that I’ve invested far more hours than could possibly be justified.  I’d be embarrassed to confess how long I work on some of these blog entries before I’m satisfied enough to publish them - how I envy people who appear to be able to write effortless articles every day.

In my experience, Managers who need to be perfect are often hugely ineffective.  Their anxiety over making mistakes dominates everything.   Whether it’s about their own performance or that of their team members, their focus is primarily on what’s wrong at the expense of what’s right.  Not only is this extremely demotivating and leads to time being wasted trying in vain to eradicate all imperfections (or over-apologising if something slips through the net), the fear of even partial failure stifles creativity.

Being able to balance an eye for detail with an appreciation of what’s really important involves a sense of perspective.  Of course there are times when complete accuracy is vital; there are also times when it isn’t.  Most people are very forgiving of signs of humanity – in fact they quite like them.  For example, there’s something bland about a presentation that’s overly polished; far more engaging is one where the audience can see the presenter’s individuality and even their imperfections. 

So, at the risk of being accused of occasional carelessness, I will not be spending this or any other week putting excessive effort into trying to achieve perfection.  One of areas where I regularly come up against my own fallibility, is the challenge I face when writing these posts to craft a satisfactory (if less than perfect) ending.   Today, I will overcome this with two quotes from two very different sources:

‘I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.
Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business.’
Michael J Fox

 ‘Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without’
The Analects of Confucius
Tim Schuler is a coach, facilitator and business partner. He specialises in bringing out the very best in managers, whether it’s their first management role or something they’ve been doing for a while. More information is available from

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