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The pursuit of perfection

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

Increasing the level of anxiety

We are building up expectations and creating false impressions that the finished, polished and perfect products that we see are the first and only drafts or were created ad-lib. That slide deck, that presentation, that speech at the all-staff get together or that executive who exudes gravitas and commands the room is never the first version. Each is like drafts of a book, the first draft isn’t usually fit to be shared, the second and third drafts deliver the fourth draft which probably then needs reviewing by a proofreader and copy editor before publication.

These successful executives receive help, it could be from an executive coach, it could be an excellent boss, a mentor, a reverse mentor, a sponsor, a trusted peer, a family member or friend who provides the valuable insights and plays one of a number of roles helping out. Better yet, it is a collection of these helping you to become even better.

Behind the scenes

Here is a powerful example of what I am talking about. Everyone by now will have watched talks on and no doubt will have their favourites, the ones that we go back to like a favourite book and share with others. One of my most-liked talks is by Susan Cain (author and Chief Revolutionary of Quiet Revolution), she gave a 2012 TED talk “The power of introverts” which has collected over 21 million views.

It is a moving story about how it can be difficult being an introvert in a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else. Susan gives a powerful, personal performance to get her message across. In a recent podcast interview that I listened to, Susan explained how she hired a coach, a specialist personal presentation coach to work with her for the full week prior to giving that talk. To deliver one 19-minute talk on a subject she was deeply passionate about and an expert in, Susan not only required the help of a coach but worked with them for a full week!

Spread the word

The next time you go on a training course, get advice from your mentor, work with a coach or spend many hours, working through draft after draft of a presentation or speech, make sure you tell people. Help spread the word and normalise that successful people get help to become more successful or that the finished product that people see is never the first iteration.

Several years ago I participated in a selective leadership program for Managing Directors and did something different. I shared the key insights I gained and focus areas for my personal leadership development with my team and close business partners. They could see that I was focused on my development, to address weaknesses and reinforce strengths and that critically they were all playing an important part in helping me improve. Through later conversations, my team's level of self-awareness was raised so that they proactively worked on ways to improve their own effectiveness.

Sharing a personal learning journey is a powerful way to help your team level up.

If you want to discover more about pursuing perfection, check out:


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