Are you a technical or sales professional striving for perfection in your professional performance? Do you also demand perfection in your colleagues’ and customers’ performances, as well? Your intolerance for imperfection makes you crazy, doesn’t it? Your perfectionist tendencies create perpetual impatience when others fail to grasp your meaning, the point you want to make, your objectives, your goals.
You don’t have to look very far to find imperfection, either. Until a few years ago, driving past forests used to make me nuts: I wanted to get out there and pull the weeds! Except the underbrush has an ecological purpose. I knew I had to let it be (although it took a bit of work, and tolerance on my part).
Imperfection is the norm.
In robust, yet precariously stable, ecosystems (like the business world, like the biological world, like your household especially if you have a teenager or two), it’s all about seeking some semblance of stability.
If you set your expectations towards achieving perfection, you will set yourself up for constant disappointment.
Customers will do what they want to do, no matter how well you have managed the sale. Factors you haven’t anticipated will pop up and derail a project. Colleagues will perform stupid human tricks that will astound you and sabotage your output.
Yes, there is that Serenity Prayer and, you know, it does make sense. There is the stuff you cannot change no matter how you try to insert yourself into the equation and micromanage the outcome. My advice: take a 10,000 foot eagle’s eye view of your business landscape in order to see all the strategic factors impacting the tactical situation you observe. You may be overwhelmed by what you see; perhaps it’s better to re-group and re-think your strategy and tactics.
Then there’s the point of the prayer where you have to dig into your reserves of self-confidence and courage so you can change the things that you are, indeed, capable of changing. That’s really the tough one. Because, as the prayer goes, you need the wisdom and core capabilities to be able to tell the difference between what you can, and cannot, change.
Any of you reading this post experience something similar in your career, where you rushed into someone else’s mess before you knew all the facts, tried to insert yourself into the outcome, and it backfired? That’s when you start to develop the wisdom to know the difference between the stuff you can change, and the stuff you should avoid trying to change.
Being a perfectionist involves taking a dual responsibility. In essence, you are simultaneously hitching your passion for your career, project, venture, philosophy, alongside your processes and discipline for achieving and realizing it. It’s like having two oxen hitched up to a wagon: they each have minds of their own and tend to pull in two directions. (Why do you think a yoke is designed the way it is?)
Now consider everyone you collaborate and innovate with, and sell to. They are driving their own oxen carts, and getting pulled all over the place. It gets messy and chaotic out there on the road to success in business and technical development.
My advice? Place your business, financial, enterprise, and technical aspirations within the context of the traffic patterns created by industry trends, trigger events, and organizational systems. Yes, multi-factorial thinking here. If you take this perspective, you can avoid impatience and frustration with other folks’ shortcomings and you will stop taking everything personally.
Those obstacles that people seem to throw in your path, those root causes, can have very large contexts. Find out what they are. It’s fascinating.
Sure, it’s fine to be a perfectionist. It makes you the thought leader and expert you are today. Along the road to where you are going – or where you have arrived from – only you know how many times you’ve resisted the temptation to pull off that highway and start pulling weeds.
I congratulate you for knowing the difference.
Babette Ten Haken provides technical people and other sellers a solid strategy for how to explain a product, its benefits, and its value in ways that buyers can easily understand and sellers can comfortably present. She gets people together who are often on opposite sides of the table, like engineers and sales people or entrepreneurs and investors. Her company, Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, works with entrepreneurs, start-ups & investors, as well as small businesses and manufacturers, focusing on revenue-generating and portfolio-building business development strategies. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? was named 2012 Finalist, Top Sales & Marketing Awards. Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC. All rights reserved. ©