What to Do With Perfectionism as a Feminine Leader

by | Dec 7, 2020

The following is adapted from F*ck the Glass Ceiling: Start at the Top (and Stay There) as a Feminine Entrepreneur.

Just like it’s impossible to sustain a whole house being perfectly clean and organized while occupying it, achieving perfection in a company is also impossible. You’ll never, ever have all the plates spinning at the same time, and you never get to tie a neat little bow around it all. 

Logically, you probably know this already, but subconsciously and emotionally, you might still have the self-imposed condition called being a perfectionist.

Of course, there is an expectation placed on all leaders to convince our followers to strive for perfection. We’re tasked with holding the vision of the perfect world and then asking people to translate it into reality by inspiring excellence. Yet, in these environments, people can easily be demoralized by their many imperfections. 

As a leader, you need to set up your people to win. To do this, you need to understand the nature of perfection and how it should be approached in the workplace.

#1: Perfection and Failure Go Hand in Hand

For my perfectionist parents, effort was not enough. An impeccable outcome mattered more. They set the bar extraordinarily high, from how to perform chores to how I was supposed to speak to them. A psychologist might say they were compensating to prove they were “enough.” Through learning and association, so too did their offspring. 

For many, perfectionism means failure isn’t tolerated. The result is that people strive not to make mistakes, rather than going for perfection as an ideal. Because of my upbringing, though, a paradoxical ability to strive for perfection while failing has become second nature. (The latest term for this, I’ve heard, is failing forward.) 

My willingness to fail as the company’s owner, while welcoming others’ so-called mistakes, has created a robust framework for people to achieve outstanding outcomes around me.

#2: Pursuing Perfect Moments is Better Than Seeking Perfection

Imagine the bride and groom who meticulously design, schedule, and organize the food, drinks, flowers, music, and table settings. But they forget to tell the cake maker there was a change in the time of the wedding months ago, so there’s not a cake. That’s not perfect.

Then the reception starts, the music plays, the ecstatic bride and groom walk in, people cheer, everyone raises a glass, and ahhh. The anxiety transforms into one of those absolutely perfect moments.

I recommend experiencing perfection by enjoying the perfect moments of daily life in your business. It can look like a celebration that makes your team belly laugh, the ringing of a bell when the client gives the team a high score, a beautiful acknowledgment of an employee, staging trivia contests at staff meetings, and so forth.

If you focus only on what is not perfect, you will overlook the perfect moments surrounding you.

#3: Perfection Isn’t About Our Subjective Standards

Perfection isn’t about our subjective standards but an ideal installed by infinite intelligence. Said another way, instead of demanding perfection in the small, day-to-day tasks of work, you should strive to fulfill your higher purpose.

We love to observe flawlessness in various forms of human endeavor, whether the perfect execution of a Hail Mary pass in the last ten seconds of the football game or the goosebumps from hearing an opera singer perfectly hit a note. In business, expecting this type of flawlessness can be the enemy of productivity—the showstopper, the deadline destroyer, or the project killer. 

To get through the messy process of meeting a goal that your team took a stand for achieving, it’s up to you to provide the connection to the higher purpose. Inspiring your team with the wisdom that they’re building a cathedral instead of just laying bricks gives your organization that connection.

#4: Seeing Perfection Expands Consciousness, While Perfectionism Contracts Consciousness

Around perfectionists, nothing you ever do feels like it’s good enough. It’s enough to make people walk around wound up tighter than eight-day clocks in a company or a household. The pursuit of perfection doesn’t have to be that way. 

As an adult, I was fortunate to have two separate mentors who taught me to see perfection. Instead of trying to make the world and the people around me fit into what I defined as perfect, I learned to see how what existed was perfect as it was.

Seeing the perfection in everyone and everything is one way for you to see what’s possible and have them see it too, especially during pressure situations. When you see perfection in what is, you expand your consciousness. 

Perfection is a Journey, Not a Destination

Perfectionism is a delicate dance. You must consciously strive for the perfect while understanding that you will never achieve it. In this way, perfection is a journey, not a destination.

By loosening your hold on perfectionism and learning to see and appreciate the perfect around you, you can inspire your team to grow and strive for more without being discouraged by imperfections.

For more advice on perfectionism, you can find F*ck the Glass Ceiling on Amazon.

Mandy Cavanaugh’s passion for leadership, entrepreneurship, and helping people thrive has fueled her roles as CEO, consultant, and facilitator. Her businesses have spanned global lodging logistics, land development, manufacturing, corporate leadership seminars, and turnaround consulting. Mandy succeeds in highly competitive environments by connecting each of her team members to their best future self. She holds various coaching certifications and has conducted seminars on high performance, authentic success, conscious language, imagination activation, conflict resolution, corporate soul retrieval, CEO-ship for start-ups, sales, team building, and wealth wisdom for women.