6 Ways to Avoid Being a “Perfectionist” Manager

Perfectionism can inhibit a leader from achieving their full potential

Malhar Lakshman , Thu 23 February 2023
Perfectionism is a trait that many managers struggle with. On the surface, striving for excellence and attention to detail can seem like positive attributes, but when taken to extremes, perfectionism can lead to negative outcomes, such as burnout, micromanagement, and missed deadlines. Managers will be challenged to properly strike a balance between achieving perfection and being overly attentive.

The Pros and Cons of Perfectionism

It is important to note that being a perfectionist is not entirely negative- here are some reasons why being a perfectionist can be advantageous for a manager:

·        High standards can lead to better quality work: When a manager has high standards for their team, it can encourage team members to put in the extra effort to produce higher quality work.
·        Attention to detail can prevent mistakes: When a manager is focused on achieving perfection, they are more likely to catch mistakes or errors before they become bigger problems.
·        Perfectionism can drive innovation: A manager who is always looking for ways to improve and achieve better results can inspire team members to think outside the box and innovate.
·        Perfectionism can set a positive example: When a manager holds themselves to a high standard, it can inspire team members to do the same and strive for excellence in their own work.
·        Perfectionism can enhance the company's reputation: High-quality work can help establish the company as a leader in its field, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

On the contrary, being too much of a perfectionist can have negative consequences, such as the following:

·        Perfectionism can lead to a lack of progress: When managers are too focused on perfection, they may spend too much time obsessing over details instead of moving forward. This can lead to missed deadlines and missed opportunities.
·        Perfectionism can lead to burnout: Managers who are perfectionists may put excessive pressure on themselves and their team members, leading to burnout and stress.
·        Perfectionism can hinder creativity: When managers are too rigid in their expectations, team members may be less likely to take risks or suggest new ideas for fear of falling short of impossible standards.
·        Perfectionism can damage morale: Team members may feel discouraged and demotivated if they feel they can never meet their manager's high expectations.
·        Perfectionism can be expensive: Striving for absolute perfection can result in unnecessary expenditures of time, money, and other resources.

So with all of this in mind, it isn’t surprising that many managers struggle to find the ideal balance for just how perfect they should be. Here are some tips on how to do so-


1)     Set Realistic Goals

One of the main reasons why managers become perfectionists is that they set unrealistic goals for themselves and their team. While it's important to aim high and challenge yourself, it's equally crucial to be realistic about what can be achieved within a given timeframe.

To avoid falling into this trap, managers should start by breaking down larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. They should also ensure that each task has a clear deadline and is achievable within the given timeframe.

Use SMART criteria to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This approach helps ensure that goals are focused, measurable, and achievable within a given timeframe. SMART goals are a core component to how leaders can manage their team using AIM Insights. Here is an article on how to set SMART goals


2)     Prioritize Tasks

Another way to avoid perfectionism is to prioritize tasks according to their level of importance. Managers should focus on completing the most critical tasks first, and then move on to less urgent ones. Prioritizing tasks can be daunting at first, so the key in prioritizing is as follows:

a.      Identify the most urgent tasks that require immediate attention.
b.      Determine which tasks will have the greatest impact on the organization's goals and objectives.
c.      Consider the resources available, including time, budget, and personnel, and allocate them to the most critical tasks.
d.      Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps to help manage time and resources more effectively.
e.      Regularly review and adjust priorities as circumstances change.


3)     Embrace Mistakes

Perfectionists often have a hard time dealing with mistakes or failures. They tend to view these as a reflection of their own inadequacies, which can lead to self-doubt and anxiety.

To avoid falling into this trap, managers should try to adopt a growth mindset. This means embracing mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than as a sign of failure.

By viewing mistakes as learning opportunities, managers can become more resilient and better equipped to handle challenges in the future.

4)     Delegate Tasks

Another way to avoid perfectionism is to delegate tasks to team members. Managers often feel like they need to do everything themselves to ensure that it's done correctly, but this can be a recipe for burnout and inefficiency.

Delegating tasks not only helps managers to free up their time, but it also empowers team members to take ownership of their work and develop new skills. Using tools such as AIM Insights can also assist in determining how much a direct report already has on their plate before delegating further tasks on to them. Furthermore, it is important to make sure that these members are okay with additional responsibilities or are being adequately compensated for the increase in their role.

5)     Set Boundaries

Perfectionists often have a hard time setting boundaries around their work. They may feel like they need to be available at all times and respond to every email or message immediately.

To avoid falling into this trap, managers should set clear boundaries around their work hours and availability. This means turning off their work phone and email outside of work hours and being clear about their response times.

Setting boundaries can help managers to create a better work-life balance and avoid burnout.

6)     Focus on the Big Picture

Finally, managers can avoid perfectionism by focusing on the big picture. While attention to detail is important, it's equally crucial to keep the larger goals in mind.

By focusing on the bigger picture, managers can avoid getting bogged down in minor details and maintain perspective on what really matters.

Perfectionism can be a challenging trait to overcome, but it's essential for managers to find a healthy balance between quality and efficiency. By setting realistic goals, prioritizing tasks, embracing mistakes, delegating tasks, setting boundaries, and focusing on the big picture, managers can avoid falling into the trap of perfectionism and become more effective leaders.

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