Give yourself a break – don’t confuse perfection with attention to detail

I often have conversations with executives and NFP directors about the opposing forces of efficiency and effectiveness. It is one of the key business dynamics that interests me the most probably because it recognises that fine balance between achieving maximum client outcomes while maintaining service sustainability.

Sometimes this might mean not being as profitable on a particular service in order to meet client needs or pushing back on clients who want the world for minimum outlay. It requires thoughtful actions and quite often compromise.

For many, the same compromise is taking place on a daily basis, but this time it’s with their personal standards. For some it can be a stressful balancing act especially when working in environments where efficiency may be the overriding theme.

This is where the battle between perfection and having an eye for detail can be most evident.

Perfection is a false construct that lives in the thoughts of its creator. Because perfection lives as their ideal, it may never be reproducible in the tangible world we live in. The perfect state is hard to communicate and can often be a destructive force if it constrains the creativity and potential growth of others.

Attention to detail on the other hand has a purpose. It can be planned, communicated, articulated, and codified. Best of all it can be delivered and measured.

The blurring of these two states can be telling on others. If you work with a perfectionist, whether it be family, work or clientele, meeting hidden expectation can be difficult.

If you are the perfectionist you could be adding extra mental pressure to your day. Asking for help can be stressful as it can bring about fear of revealing an imperfect self, damaging relationships and support.

The extra time placed on superfluous activities can also lead to opportunity cost for organisations if efforts are best utilised elsewhere.

So what is the best way to balance these two states to achieve the best outcomes?

  1. When developing plans and projects ask "what is the desired outcome?" and what are you trying to achieve? Articulate purpose, feel, function and emotions. This can stop the perfectionist from honing in on minute details too early in the development stages.

  2. We all interpret information through our own filters so have an open discussion with those involved as to their understanding of these states.

  3. Try to build agreement on as many of the expected outcomes as you can up front and how you will measure success. Alternatively build a set of acceptable options or substitutes.

  4. Be flexible where you can. If you have hired experts listen to their reasoning. Encourage ideas from your executive team or board that still fit the end goal while embracing their creativity and initiative. Tell yourself that it’s still OK if the colour or the font differs from your first thoughts.

  5. Review the final outcome with all involved. What worked and what could be improved. Focus on improvement of outcomes and process rather than finding fault in small issues or details.

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robert @ leadingforpurpose . com . au

Amplify Me Pty Ltd trading as

Leading For Purpose