Perfect is the enemy of good – Voltaire
My kids love to watch the TV show “Mythbusters”. If you’re not familiar with the show, in it two former Hollywood stuntmen debunk common urban and other popular myths, using basic scientific methods, physics and math (and some fun props that sometimes explode).
In my coaching practice, I do a bit of “myth-busting” about leadership (no explosions yet, however). I work with a lot of smart, accomplished people. They are good at their work, they know their stuff, and get lots of results.
And yet, there are a few fairy tales many of my clients have to debunk about themselves and about leadership in general:
1) As the leader, I should have all the answers.
From our education and upbringing, we often rewarded for being able to answer quickly and thoroughly – it’s seen as a sign of intelligence and competence.
However in this day and age, the most effective leaders are the ones who can evoke answers from the others around them. Instead of needing to know or fix everything, effective leaders help facilitate and harness the inherent knowledge of those they work with.
Instead of needing to have all the answers, try asking more open ended questions of those around you to solicit their ideas.
2) I need to be perfect.
While tending to motivate, this myth tends to have the opposite effect, often paralyzing even the smartest people. The desire to be “perfect” generally points to deeply held values around excellence, high standards or quality.
Instead of judging or evaluating your performance against a standard of perfection, try measuring your impact based on your ability to demonstrate excellence and quality in any situation.
3) If people aren’t 100% on board with my ideas, I must be doing something wrong.
The role of a leader is to constantly venture into the unknown. Therefore, it’s a guarantee it’s going to be unfamiliar territory – usually for you and for the folks you are leading.
In any change process, anticipate that anywhere from between 1-19% of people won’t like what you do, no matter what. This also means that somewhere between 81-99% will.
Instead of grading yourself or any situation on a standard of 100% or pass/fail, try aiming for a solid 85% as your goal. Reframe your success based on your values, your intentions and your effort, not only on the opinions of others.
Like Mythbusters, being an effective leader all about putting our hypotheses about ourselves to the test, running some experiments, and gathering the data. And not being afraid to try again.
In the comments below, I want to hear from you. Let me know:
1) Which of these myths (answers, perfection, pass/fail – or other ones!) do you commonly tell yourself?
2) Which of the “myth-buster” suggestions will you try? I’d love to hear what happens!