Perfection: not a dirty word

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

If you were sitting in a job interview, and the hiring manager asked, "Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?" you would know how to answer—"Of course not!" Nobody's perfect. Perfectionists lack flexibility, waste time with unreasonable demands and make everyone miserable. Right? Well, it depends on what you mean by "perfect."

The world of work is too complex, with too many variables outside our control, to reasonably expect perfect results every time. But we can, at the same time, strive for perfect performance—meeting a clear, preset standard 100 percent of the time. Make that your goal for your team, and you'll cut down on errors and see improved productivity.

Here's what to do:

Establish clear performance standards. Be sure all workers understand the standards and agree that they are achievable. Review them carefully with new employees. Ask everyone to make a commitment to try for perfection—to meet the standards each and every time. 

Work on improving employee skill levels. This includes working on your own skills as a teacher, trainer and mentor. If you ask for perfection without giving employees the support and training they need to produce it, you'll frustrate your staff and end up doing more harm than good.

Continuously focus on improvement. Give employees a variety of positive ideas they can use to turn out a consistent product or render flawless service. And spend as much time, if not more, listening to their ideas for improving products or service. No one can make better suggestions than the people who do the hands-on work.

Diligently work to solve problems. Don't let things slide or write off obstacles as no big deal. Ask questions and listen seriously to employee input, and be willing to make necessary changes to your systems and processes. Giving problem solving your full attention and energy makes your commitment clear and sends a motivating message to your team.

Offer generous rewards for perfection. Give your people the recognition they're due when they do a flawless job. Go overboard and get creative to deliver extraordinary rewards for extraordinary effort. Be sure to praise your people's performance publicly.

Remember, each of us will never be perfect, and trying to make ourselves that way is futile. But we can produce our products to the same set of specifications each time. Our service can be flawless. In short, our performance can be perfect, and if you focus your efforts on meeting that goal, you'll have a good chance of success. And your employees will appreciate you for working to bring out the best in them.

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