Do you procrastinate just to do something the right way? Do you spot mistakes when others don’t see any? Do you sacrifice sleep, personal time and well being to bring your work to the highest level? Do you become upset if you don’t achieve your goals? Do you beat yourself up if something goes wrong? Chances are you could be a perfectionist.
While once-upon-a-time perfectionism was seen as a strength, in today's fast-paced environment, it may actually negatively impact your health and ultimately hinder progress.
However, being a perfectionist has many strengths such as being highly organised, paying close attention to detail, pushing to achieve new heights, optimism and high levels of motivation – all excellent qualities for success. But when these strengths are taken to extremes, they can do more harm than good. As a perfectionist, how do you embrace these traits to make them work for you?
Trait # 1 - Being Highly Organised
Who doesn’t want a team member or leader who is all over it? Organisational skills are one of the desirable traits most frequently listed in a job advertisement or job description - perfectionists have this one nailed!
This can become an issue for perfectionists when their strong need for order creates a lack of flexibility in getting things done. Being aware of your potential to be ridged is the first step in noticing the impact it can have on others. Once aware, building flexibility into your organising patterns is a great way to meet your own needs and provide flexibility for others.
Trait # 2 – Attention to Detail
Having someone who sweats the small stuff can be super important in specific areas. Think of jobs like a surgeon, safety officer or an engineer. If they weren’t paying attention to the details, the results could be disastrous.
Where this can be challenging for perfectionists is when they give the same level of focus to sending an internal email to making sure a building is structurally sound. This high level of attention to detail for all jobs, regardless of impact, can have a flow-on effect in causing project delays, micromanagement of staff and the sacrificing of personal health and well being to keep plugging away at the task.
If you can mindfully acknowledge the level of detail you think each task requires at the outset, then you can start to choose where your energy is best invested.
Trait # 3 – Pushing to Achieve New Heights
Where would the world be without music that can be downloaded digitally, images that can be captured and manipulated without film or the art of text messaging? All these innovations have arisen as the brainchild of a perfectionist.
Perfectionists can sometimes see things others can't, and it can be frustrating for them when those around don't share in their vision - let alone finding the right people to help bring it to life. Rather than letting that feeling of frustration boil over, allow a little extra time and resource to harness the power of storytelling to help others engage with the ideas.
Aside from not alienating colleagues and team members, you will likely inspire them to share your vision, which they will be more motivated to achieve with you. This may actually take some of the load off you in the long run too as their execution will be stronger if they have truly bought in.
Trait # 4 – Optimism
Perfectionists know that with sweat, hard work and determination, anything is possible. How do they know this? Because they have been in this situation many times before and it has worked. They pulled an all-nighter, slaved over that task, and they were rewarded for it.
This creates a sense of optimism that perfectionists carry with them into every day. They are great problem solvers and idea generators and are relentless in their quest to achieve the desired outcome.
While this is a highly desirable trait, where it can backfire is when it comes to understanding that other colleagues and team members may not share their optimism, may lack confidence in their ability or not be prepared to put in the same level of effort as the perfectionist. A perfectionist may be seen as intolerant towards others in these situations.
By shifting that intolerance to empathy and gaining a deep understanding of why others don’t share the same views can mean these challenges are aired and can be addressed.
Trait # 5 – Highly Motivated
It is unlikely you will find a perfectionist taking long lunch breaks, hanging out chatting in the kitchen or doing a standard shift. Perfectionists are some of the most highly motivated employees with a strong goal-orientation. They can be highly productive, outcome orientated and extremely reliable in delivery.
As a result, perfectionists sometimes get more and more loaded on to their plate. Let's face it, they are organised, have high attention to detail, achieve great things and are optimistic, so why wouldn't they be given a higher workload or responsibility? It is no wonder why perfectionists have a higher rate of becoming burnt out and suffering from mental health conditions than other employees.
As a perfectionist, setting your limits is not only beneficial to you personally but also to the business - who will keep their star employee engaged rather than on the way to burnout.
If you are a perfectionist, then with a little mindfulness you can take those incredible character traits and make them an even greater strength - as well as make your work-life easier and less intense for yourself and those around you.