How to work *with* perfectionists, not against them

Hey perfectionists, we need to talk.

I’ve been noticing a theme as I work with clients. Some are perfectionists themselves, and some work for perfectionists. Both are struggling to feel heard.

That’s because perfectionists usually apply their preferences to everything. And those preferences, which are often subjective, feel too important to compromise.

Perfectionists, for example, swoop in to make an edit to a document or presentation, and then they edit some more. The work never truly feels done. They also struggle to prioritize, because everything feels so important.

Those who work for a perfectionist feel like they’re always missing the mark, because it’s an impossible one to reach. Over time, they lose confidence, and paralysis kicks in. They seek validation from others, exhausting those around them.

Ultimately, in all cases, progress slows.

So what to do? Let’s talk about a dual strategy.

If you’re a perfectionist, I want you to pause before a project starts, and ask yourself one question: What are my non-negotiables?

Write them down. Then, carve out time with your team to articulate those requirements. It’s on you as the leader to set expectations from the start.

The rub? You’re likely going to have to let some of your preferences go, but you can decide what those are.

If you work for a perfectionist, you must speak up. Schedule time to talk through their vision.

Let them know you understand they’re looking for a specific outcome. Ask them to clearly define what that is, and where there’s room for you to offer value.

Leave that meeting with a documented understanding of priorities.

So, for both perfectionists and those who report to them, thoughtful communication is the answer.

Start talking.

Rooting for you,

P.S. If you’re a woman in leadership and you’re looking for more strategies like this, I encourage you to explore my Leadership Circle. It’s a yearlong program for female executives who want to invest in coaching, development, and community. Our 2024 cohort starts this fall, and the women who have already said yes are people you’ll love to have in your network.

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