I am a recovering perfectionist, and I know from nearly two decades listening to senior managers that we are legion. All of us have certain areas where it shows up, and many of us, if we are honest, want everything we do to be done flawlessly.
In life and business, perfect is not only rarely attainable, we all realize it comes with a price: driving ourselves and others until we break. Having impossibly high standards can suck the joy out of a project or a relationship in a split second.
When we look at the results of any strengths assessment, we see that no one equally strong in every area. In fact, according the research from Gallup, most of us are good at using only about the top 15 or so of the 34 strengths their assessment measures. By their estimate, odds are we would have to sort through 33 million other individuals before finding someone who had the same top 5 strengths, in the same order we do. And while we have other talents in our repertoire, they are only rarely called upon in specific situations.
If none of us has access to all the talent and strength themes, it makes sense to lean in to family members, colleagues, and other communities in places where we want to have all the bases covered. Collaboration is called for. What if imperfection were a part of our design to encourage us to reach out to each other? Interdependence is woven into our natural world in any area we examine.
I have finally learned to accept that I’m not mechanically inclined, and feel gratitude for those who keep my cars and other machines running smoothly. It has been a little more challenging to accept other aspects I’m not pleased with. I have a short attention span in meetings, conferences and classes. If I can accept that about myself, it makes it easier to accept the person who has trouble getting to the point. None of us sets out to frustrate ourselves or those we interact with. The more we can be gracious with ourselves and each other, and say, “oh well,” truly without disgust or rancor, the more energy we free up for other areas.
I’m learning to lean in to my partner in areas where he is naturally more capable. For example, my husband is an excellent traveler. He rarely gets rattled (adaptability is his top strength), enjoys the new sights and sounds wherever we travel. I know I can count on him to arrange the itinerary, choose a pleasing hotel and destination. I don’t particularly enjoy price comparisons between airlines – it’s a detail I appreciate, but am not interested enough to spend time on. By the same token, he often relies on me to generate solutions when speed is important. My number one strength of strategic sees the larger picture quickly and assesses best options under pressure. We make a great team. The bigger bonus is that by accepting our less strong areas and allowing the other to shine where they naturally do, both of us feel better about what we bring, and what we don’t. Isn’t that a nice win for any team?