The first time I took the DISC assessment, which measures interpersonal behaviour, my attention immediately found and remained on the word “Perfectionist”. I remember feeling an immediate sense of pride even before taking the time to read the details of my report. In all honesty, it felt fantastic to be labelled a perfectionist. After all, it obviously meant that I was sort of perfect, right? Or at least more perfect than most people (spoiler alert: it 100% doesn’t mean that). Sharing this “Perfectionist” label with a colleague, he reaffirmed that he wasn’t surprised by my results and that it was the perfect (pun totally intended!) DISC Pattern for me. I cannot lie - It felt pretty good!
Fast forward a few years later. As I grew in leadership and worked with some amazing coaches, I recognised that it wasn’t that simple. The same adjective, “perfectionist”, that filled me with so much pride and pushed me to succeed in many ways was also holding me back in many others ways.
Having high standards, meticulous attention to detail, and being in control are the hallmarks of success. However, when “perfectionism” becomes a chain that prevents you from taking action, unless that action is, indeed, perfect, it’s a downward spiral into self-doubt, lower impact, and feelings of “not being good enough”. Effectively, the same label propelling you to success may simultaneously be your Achilles’ Heel.
High-achievers and leaders often lean into perceived “strengths”, like perfectionism, that become unconstructive barriers to success. This happens when one is not aware of the underlying beliefs driving those mindsets. Here are 4 such common mindset “strengths”, how they can serve you, the inadvertent impact of not keeping them in check, and what you can do to lean into the constructive side, and let go of the destructive.
1. The Perfectionist:
one who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.
In businesses all over the world, perfectionists make fantastic employees, especially at the early-to-mid-management level. This is because they hold themselves and those around them to a high standard. As a result, they regularly deliver exceptional results, down to the minutiae. Their bosses trust their work and praise them for a job well done, which further reinforces their need to be perfect all the time.
However, while perfectionists often find success, especially earlier in their careers, fear of failure, imposter syndrome, and low productivity can become major barriers to success. They fear falling short of perfection and worry that others will finally notice one day. This often leads perfectionists to avoid or delay taking actions and making decisions that they perceive to not be “perfect”. Effectively, that same perfectionism that’s helped them succeed becomes the enemy of progress and development. In the case of a Perfectionist Manager, their teams also bear the brunt of this mindset through higher levels of criticism when they fall short of their manager’s very high standards.
Strategies for The Perfectionist to tackle blockers impacting their success:
Focus on the impact of your work, and not how perfectly it’s executed.
Trust yourself, knowing that your abilities are not tied to an arbitrary measure of perfection.
Develop a growth mindset, appreciating that there is success in learning, even during perceived “failures”.
See the potential in others and the beauty in their imperfect differences in creating innovative solutions.
2. The Super(wo)man:
one who believes and/or is a person of extraordinary or superhuman power or achievements.
Super(wo)men are problem-solvers by nature. They have the innate ability to save the day by solving the most difficult problems and they believe it is their responsibility to do so. Have a major client who is about to pull their business? Got a team member that is not delivering the goods? See a cat stuck up a tree? Call your resident super(wo)man! This person is ready to step in and step up to get any job done, day or night. They believe they are capable of getting the job done and not doing so is unacceptable. After all, why else would they have been blessed with these gifts? In addition, they are continuously learning and developing themselves. Just so they are ready for the next emergency that comes up.
However, while it may feel good to constantly save the day, the life of a superhero can be extremely stressful. Super(wo)men often suffer from feeling like they are “not good enough”, both in terms of their actions and results. No matter how many clients or colleagues (or cats) they save, there was always another that they didn’t. Or that they didn’t save the day as quickly or as effectively as they believe they should have. This leads to disappointment in themselves. After all, why else would they have been blessed with these gifts? Because of this, burnout is not an unfamiliar place for super(wo)men to end up. Also, while they can inspire their teammates, because they take on everything themselves, they don’t always give others a chance to try, “fail”, learn, and develop, therefore inadvertently stifling the growth of others.
Strategies for The Super(wo)man to tackle blockers impacting their success:
Focus on the solution, not just the problem. The opportunities, not the challenges.
Be more strategic and move beyond fire-fighting.
Embrace the strength in your humanity.
See the potential in others and their ability to support you to have even more impact.
Practice self-care. After all, you can’t save the world if you are burnt-out.
3. The All-round Natural Talent:
a versatile person with an innate or inborn gift across many abilities, aka one who appears to be good at everything.
The All-round Natural Talent is, in a word, annoying. They are good at everything, including connecting with people. So they aren’t so much annoying as they are just awesome human beings and desirable teammates. Because of this, success just seems to follow them around. They see opportunities everywhere and often get a lot of great, varied opportunities, which they very much deserve. They can quickly understand and connect new concepts in a way that creates value for their teams and business. Everything just feels effortless to them.
However, because All-round Natural Talents are great at so many things, they get asked to jump onto lots of projects at the same time. And because they can take on new concepts and ideas easily, they have no problem saying “yes”, even when they are at capacity. They can be seen as a Jack (or Jane) of All Trades, providing value for everyone but never quite fitting in anywhere. Their strengths often overshadow their passions and because they are great at so many things (and get excited about trying lots of new things), they find it difficult to figure out what they truly want to do. As a result, it is very common for All-round Natural Talents to feel lost in terms of their career direction and future aspirations.
Strategies for The All-round Natural Talent to tackle blockers impacting their success:
Reconnect to your passions to go from Natural Talent to Exceptional Talent.
Learn to say no to create space for yourself to explore your passions and to give others a chance to develop themselves.
Celebrate your achievements. Just because they come naturally to you, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be celebrated.
Actively seek challenging opportunities by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Managing a team of 20 in one region? Push to manage a team of 100 across regions.
4. The Multi-Tasking Doer:
one who gets lots of things done at the same time.
The Multi-Tasking Doer gets stuff done! Throw 3 different tasks at them before lunchtime, knowing that they have a full day of meetings and be amazed by their submission of all 3 tasks (plus a bonus 4th) before the end of the day. They are proactive, practical, efficiency machines, who get satisfaction from consistently delivering work.
However, while Multi-Tasking Doers may appear to be the ideal employee, especially early on in their careers, tasks do not equal impact. While keeping their head down and getting the work done may create a sense of accomplishment and keep the boss happy, it can be a major barrier to stepping into leadership. True leadership requires strategic thinking (not just doing) and people leadership, often through delegation. The Multi-Tasking Doer leaves little room for either of these. Remember: the gift for doing good work is more work. Therefore, creating a reputation for being a worker-bee will only produce more, similar work and so the cycle continues. Besides, dividing work amongst so many different tasks may appear to be more efficient, but it eventually affects quality and focus.
Strategies for The Multi-Tasking Doer to tackle blockers impacting their success:
Prioritise strategic & interpersonal development to step up in your leadership. Block out time in your diary to make this happen.
Practice focusing on one task at a time. Improve the quality and impact of your work by dedicating more of your energy to one task at a time.
Delegate tasks to others. It is good for their growth and gives you space to develop.
Find a mentor to help develop your leadership skills. Break out of your bubble by finding inspiration from a leader that inspires you.
Be ok doing “less”. You are not defined by the number of tasks you tick off your checklist. Do “less” to achieve greater impact.
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Yewande is the founder & CEO of OTITỌ Leadership Coaching & Consulting, where she partners with organisations, business leaders & high-achievers to help them accelerate to their next level of success. She brings the knowledge and experience she has gained as a Certified Professional Coach, as a McKinsey consultant and a Morgan Stanley VP. Want to discuss how we can help you accelerate to your next goal? Email us.