Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The curse of perfectionism - issues in coaching

I was recently called in to work with a team who by any objective measure could be described as ‘high-performing’. They were leaders in their industry, consistently produced great results and had the respect of their peers and customers alike. However, far from basking in the much justified praise they received from all quarters, this was one of the most miserable and least satisfied teams I have ever encountered. All they could see was how much they had yet to do, and worst still, they saw each other as rivals and competitors. They were in very real danger of fracturing as a group and destroying their hard won reputation.

None of this made too much sense until it occurred to me that this was a group cursed with perfectionism. They had impossibly high standards for themselves – nothing less than perfection was good enough them and even perfection probably didn’t cut it. Rather than motivating them, their self imposed expectations were leading to paralysis, inaction and in-fighting. What really made the difference for this group was discovering – to their huge surprise-  that they all carried a strong sense of failure and under-achievement, and assumed that their peers were more able/bright/together (fill in the blank) than they were. And strangely enough just by being able to see their assumptions they were able to start the conversation to fix the situation. 

So... where are you expecting of yourself? Progress or perfection?

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