“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” –Harriet Braiker
Take a moment to ask yourself where you put your emphasis on – excellence or perfection.
Do you have an understanding of the difference between excellence and perfection? Being clear around the differences will help you make better decisions for yourself and in managing employees. Let’s first define the two words:
Perfection: the quality or state of being perfect: as freedom from fault or defect
Excellence – very good of its kind : eminently good
What is perfection?
We are all aware that people process differently in the same situation, given their life experience, beliefs, knowledge and skills. Put this all in the mix and we can’t possibly subscribe to something that is the same every time. Perfection is a moving target and impossible to attain.
Perfection is fear based, attachment to being right and filled with rigidity.
Perfection is based on one’s performance, whereas excellence is based on constant improvement to the outcome.
The paradox is that sometimes perfectionists are fearful to move unless it is perfect which can influence the productivity of the individual. Perfection is:
“…the practice of demanding of oneself or others a higher quality of performance then is required by the situation.”
(M.H. Hollender, “Perfectionism”)
What is excellence?
Excellence still addresses the variables of work situation, using those differences to maximize the strength of the outcome. It’s taking the issues and asking how we can be better. It’s about aiming towards excellence, knowing that we are doing our best at any given moment. It’s a process, a journey, a way of living, a belief that we can continue to strive to be better for the rest of our lives.
Excellence is movement, whereas perfection is static trying to freeze a moment in its ideal.
The individual who strives towards excellence “…take a genuine pleasure in striving to meet high standards unlike the perfectionist who strains compulsively toward impossible goals. Those who pursue excellence are willing to accept a less than perfect performance without feeling inadequate.”
(D. Burns, “The Perfectionist Script for Self-Defeat.”
Even in difficult times, we can still strive for our best. In difficult times, perfectionists complain that the situation is not perfect. Complaining depletes energy and productivity. Whereas those who strive towards excellence sit in the moment and asked “how I can deal with this situation for the best outcome for everyone.“
Excellence is doing our very best, knowing that mistakes will be made and using that information to continue to strive towards our goals.
Excellence is embedded with the understanding that one continues to grow. Perfection makes the assumption that one must have it right all the time.
The fluidity of excellence challenges the rigidity of perfection.
As the manager
So how does this apply to your role as a manager? In the mix of managing employees are yours and your employee’s knowledge, skills and attitudes, along with the company’s ability to provide the work best environment.
What do you expect from yourself and from your employees? When you are interacting with your staff, you are constantly sending messages to them – do your best or be perfect.
As managers, we do our best when we provide clear expectations, along with coaching and counseling to guide each person to be their best.
We do our best when we are willing to allow our employees to make mistakes and learn from them.
We do our best in managing employees, when we focus on their strengths as that is where their potential for excellence lies.
Focus on excellence – yours and your employees.