Kicking butt is a time-honored management technique. In Martin Zwillling’s review of Managing to Make a Difference on Inc.com, it was included among other techniques Larry and I offer in the book as one of the “10 Management Lessons They Don't Teach You in Business School.”

Like any technique, kicking butt can be helpful for improving performance when used in the right way, at the right time and in the right circumstances. Also, like any technique, it can be ineffective and even harmful if it is overused or misused.

Perfectionism gets a bad rap. In our first post in this two-part series, we wrote about how focusing on the downside of perfectionism – and trying to “fix” it – is the wrong approach. In that post, we shared insights and tips from one of our favorite perfectionists, Maribel Cruz, encouraging people to embrace perfectionism as a strength and use it to optimize their own performance.

Today, we share insights and tips from another of our favorite perfectionists, Christie Calkins Stukenholtz, as she reflects on helpful strategies and lessons learned in the multiple stages she went through to finish a big project to her satisfaction – writing hundreds of thank you notes after her wedding. Here’s Christie’s story:

Have you ever worked for a manager who set high expectations for you – maybe even higher than you would have set for yourself – and genuinely believed you could achieve those expectations? Did your performance in the end meet or even exceed those expectations? If so, you’ve benefitted from the Pygmalion effect.

There’s nothing fun about getting your wisdom teeth extracted, but mine needed to come out, so I “bit the bullet” and scheduled the surgery. Dr. David Rallis, University of Nebraska and Mayo Clinic trained oral surgeon, was recommended by my Internist as one of the best in town, so of course, that’s who I wanted to do the surgery.

It wasn’t surprising that the surgery went well; that’s the expectation we have of doctors, right? But what I didn’t expect was the follow up Dr. Rallis did himself. Not his nurse or office manager, the doctor provided a caring experience that, in my opinion, set him apart as world-class and why I’m telling this story today. Here’s my experience:

If someone you care deeply about is having brain surgery, do you want a surgical team that says, “Done is better than perfect,” in the operating room? We don’t!

Too often, people focus only on the downside of perfectionism. Perfectionism, like almost all other character traits, is not inherently desirable or undesirable. It is not something people should work to overcome.  Furthermore, even if you want to overcome it, that’s extremely difficult to do because, like introversion, it’s a character trait.

If you are a perfectionist, we encourage you to embrace it as a strength, not curse it as a flaw. Instead of investing your time trying to shake off your perfectionism, you should seek situations in which being a perfectionist is a good fit. Look for an organization that is passionate about excellence, one that sets high standards for quality and aggressively strives for continuous improvement.

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