Friday, January 30, 2009 by Dave Blum
Whether you’re a manager, a parent, or the leader of corporate team building exercises, if you’re successful, you’re likely to possess some element of “perfectionism”.  Come on, perfectionists, you know what I’m talking about — that awful, recurring feeling that your work product hasn’t turned ideally and it’s killing you!

I certainly have the perfectionist in me, and sometimes it’s a real drag.  For example, check out the following video that I shot last week at the wonderful Newseum in Washington, D.C.   As you’ll see, my faux newscast was all going according to plan — until the very end, when I completely froze up and blew it.  Argh!

I can’t turn in a video with that kind of error!   Why wouldn’t they let me re-shoot it!

If you’re a department leader putting together a team, you will need to have some perfectionists in your group.  Perfectionists give their all for whatever task you assign them and push themselves to reach the highest standards.  But keep an eye on them! Perfectionists tend to beat themselves up when they can’t reach the lofty goals they’ve set for themselves. AND, they’re likely to push others — hard — to match their own high ideals, which can be frustrating for all concerned.  Once, when debriefing one of my scavenger hunts, a participant related her experience of getting angry at one of her teammates:  “It just didn’t seem like Joe cared about completing the treasure hunt clues!”

Perfections care — intensely — and they expect others to care about the project as well.  It drives them crazy when their teammates appear to be lackadaisical or indifferent. The irony is that “non-perfectionists” often do care about the task at hand — deeply; they just have a different emotional mechanism for dealing with stress.  If a non-perfectionist feels they’ve made their best effort and it doesn’t pan out, they don’t get down on themselves; they simply re-set, laugh at themslelves, and try again.

When leading my team building exercises, I often give the non-perfectionists the following instructions:   “Value your perfectionists; their sense of urgency will help drive you to reach your highest goals.  And you perfectionists, value your teammates. Their job is to remind you that it’s okay to be gentle with yourself; mistakes are part of the process.  It’s okay, from time to time, to relax, to take pleasure from the people in your group, to enjoy the ride, together.”