Monday, July 24, 2006

Do More by Letting Go

Are you a perfectionist?

I had an amazing experience this weekend. My company, held its annual two day Winter Retreat on communication. The team who organised it were amazing, the presenters phenomenal and all in all it was a great success. For me, as the leader, there was a huge lesson. A lesson I think I have learned but still one that takes me by surprise. You see I have a confession to make…I am a control freak, how about you?

Common thoughts in my head used to be…

“Oh give it to me I know what to do” or “By the time I explain it I might as well do it myself” or “If you want a job done right you have to do it yourself.” Now I am not proud of these thoughts but I am proud to say that I am a recovering control freak.

I think the need to control the outcome of every project in such detail comes from some pretty silly places. Here are two:

1. Overachievers’ expectations

We control everything because we have huge expectations of ourselves and others. As a result we are continually disappointed by the delivery of others and never satisfied with “good enough”. This overachiever syndrome is destructive. Our best on any given day is different from day to day and there is a huge difference between high achievement and overachievement.

2. The Perfection Myth

Perfection is a horizon! You can never arrive at the horizon. By definition it is unachievable. A textbook definition of perfection is that it is an attempt to control the outside worlds view of you so they don’t realise how truly stuffed up you are. Guess what “we know!” Seriously anyone who takes themselves that seriously is seriously deluded. Most people are not even thinking about you.

I have decided to continually resolve the tension between high standards and perfection. Your 80% is anyone else’s 150%. I now focus on all the projects I have running and have turned my obsession from each being 100% perfect to all of them being 100% productive. To achieve 100% productivity you do not allow activities to dip into excessive refining. Instead you ensure that each achieves its maximum output without diminishing returns on the time expended.

Keys to letting go:

  • Remember the last time you stuffed up and be sympathetic when people don’t deliver on your expectations.
  • Give clearer guidelines and check in continually so that people understand what you expect.
  • Allow something better than your expectation to arrive. The results that occur when others are given space is often something better than you could have created.
  • Develop a culture of accountability. Do not let anyone in your team to cover up for the absence of results. Otherwise your best get burned out as they pick up the slack of the rest.
The best get better because they surround themselves with brilliant people.

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