Many leaders who consistently perform well will admit to having perfectionist tendencies. Those tendencies can be motivating, but they can also cause stress. An article in Harvard Business Review has collected advice from a number of experts on how to prevent perfectionism from getting in the way of productivity.
This is especially relevant for women leaders, according to studies comparing men and women in terms of perfectionism and self criticism. One such study, a “Mental Health Check-In” reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, was conducted in Australia among male and female executives. Results showed that “33 percent of women in corporate workplaces had high perfectionism scores, compared to 21 percent of men. Looking at self-criticism, 44 percent of women exhibited this trait, compared to 34 percent of male respondents.”
The psychologist who conducted the study said manifestations of perfectionism include “a lack of tolerance for making mistakes or errors, not getting everything done that they wanted to get done, (and) getting feedback that isn’t positive.”
In the HBR article, experts made the following suggestions for managing perfectionism:
- See the big picture.
Shift your mindset so you can be “less perfect about some things and concentrate on what’s important.”
Adjust your standards.
Show your work to a colleague early in the process; you may find out it’s “good enough.”
Create a checklist.
By following g a process with discrete and measurable goals, you can check items off the list and “be done.”
Break the cycle of rumination.
Learn more about specific ways to do this by identifying triggers, not trusting your first reaction, seeking a diversion, and thinking positively. (See also the article on rumination and decision-making.)
Give someone you trust permission to let you know when you’re being overly fussy.
Monitor your progress.
Learn where perfectionism has a positive impact and where it does not.