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Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

I just had the pleasure of recently helping my dad celebrate his 91st birthday – quite a milestone! He was considered an older dad when I was born and a member of the Silent Generation. He lived through World War II as a young boy in Britain and has had many stories to tell about his younger days. How he came to the United States, how he persevered through adversity in his professional career, and how he sees life now that he is older and wiser. And now, when I accompany him to occasional medical appointments, the nurses swoon because of his sweet nature and thick, British accent. He’s considered quite adorable.

He is also a perfectionist.

As I listened to some of his musings recently, I reflected on how many of my dad's personality, and traits made their way into me and which ones did not. I have his gift for gab and storytelling to connect with people. I have his analytical brain and logical and methodical traits, with a mutual love for spreadsheets.

Like him, I am also a perfectionist.

Lucky for me, I have been able to put myself in the category of recovering perfectionist thanks to a few key strategies.

While I'll always be a perfectionist in some way or another, I have learned to harness the power of embracing Progressive Improvement instead.

How was I able to do that? Let me tell you, it has been a journey years in the making.

It's not easy to come to terms with who you are as a person. Everyone has different strengths and characteristics that make up each unique personality – diversity in personality is a very good thing.

Throughout my career and at different stages, I've benefited from objective feedback in various forms. Each one has enabled me to develop a deeper self-awareness to recognize certain traits that may hold me back – like perfectionism.

Personality/Behavioral Assessment Tools

You may be familiar with many different assessments, like Myers-Briggs or Predictive Index, as well as DISC. And I have taken most of them at one time or another. I was so resistant to taking any behavioral assessment – I would say I didn't want to be put in a personality "box" and subsequently judged on said personality. I also didn't feel I needed an assessment to tell me I was exactly like my dad. I certainly didn’t feel safe or secure in deeper self-exploration.

Over time, and after taking several different assessments, I could see the connection between how I was as a person, what was considered my comfort zone, and how to lean into opportunities to grow and improve as a person and a professional. It still allowed me to be me, but with a measure of self-awareness that helped to prevent perfectionism from creeping in too much.

360 Reviews

I have taken two of these in my career, as a new leader and as a seasoned leader. The 360 review I did as a new leader was actually around the same time I was coming to grips with my personality traits via behavioral self-assessment tools. It was a struggle to be open and embrace the feedback of my direct reports and colleagues. I wasn't open to it and saw the results as a failure rather than starting point.

Looking back, I never would have developed into a strong leader had it not been for that first 360 review.

By the time the second 360 review came around, I knew what my personality and leadership traits were, had taken time to work on myself as a person and a leader, and was open to getting feedback – seeing it as a gift – that second time around.

One-on-One Coaching

This is essential. I had a coach from the 360 review process and transitioned to a trusted mentor to provide a safe space to explore how I was progressively developing as a leader in a way that recognized and rewarded small, progressive improvement wins over time. Taking time to reflect and work through what I was experiencing with someone I trusted helped me find the best path forward in tricky situations.

It’s hard being a leader, but we raised our hands and signed up for the gig. The least we can do is get help and support as we develop into our roles to ensure our teams embrace success through progressive improvement.

At Butler Street, we are here to help you develop as a professional and as a leader. As an authorized partner in administering The Original DiSC® Assessment, Butler Street helps others see the value of self-exploration, as well as administers 360 reviews for leaders at every stage of their career and leadership journey. Named Top Leadership Coaching/Training Company for the past four years, we provide online, onsite, and virtual training programs that provide the processes, best practices, and tools to become a leader people want to follow. Whether you are a perfectionist like me or not, we have the tools, knowledge, and experience to build a program that fits your professional needs and your organization’s professional needs. Contact us to learn more.


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