Friday, June 4, 2010

Is Imperfection your Foe?

We live in a society where striving for perfection has become an obsession.

The perfect face, the perfect body, the perfect couple, the perfect house, the perfect family with the perfect kids.

We see multi-billion dollar industries around each one of these "perfect ideals," and the list goes on. As a result, imperfection is not only our foe, it feeds our fear that we will be unsuccessful if we aren't perfect.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

Imperfection is the source of richness, beauty and success .

In order to lead our lives forward for bigger and better results and success, we need to first embrace the imperfections in ourselves and in all aspects of our lives. Make imperfection your friend and increase your productivity.

The drive for perfection is about control; controlling outcomes, controlling people and controlling situations. Imperfection can be scary because imperfection requires letting go.

I will never forget when I first became a mother while working at The Coca-Cola Company. One of my associates said to me, "Laura, now that you are a mom, maybe one day you too will come in with one blue and one black shoe."

I didn't really get it at the time, but I guess in retrospect, what she was saying was, "please Laura, please be a little bit more human, a little less perfect."

The stride for perfection keeps us at an arm's reach away from others. It doesn't allow for the critical connections we desperately need in order to be leaders that others will follow.

Even as a mother, a.k.a. a leader at home, this stride for perfection plagued me. I have to admit, it was a challenge early on.

You see, I did want my daughter to dress perfectly and when she chose ragamuffin clothes that looked like some homeless person dressed her, took all I had to not insist she go and change. After some time, I found beauty in her mismatched outfits that undeniably personified her. Most importantly in allowing her imperfection, I learned about the colors she loved, the fabrics she preferred and what was important to her. This all could have been missed if I insisted she wear what I wanted her to wear.

As leaders, we want perfect results, a perfect boss, a perfect job, perfect team members, the perfect promotion and perfect timelines. I know that I had a great deal of self-induced stress because I once bought into many of these perfect ideals that we have about work too; the biggest one being the illusion of being perfectly polished in every way. Just think of our images of leaders. Don't these images suggest perfection in every way....almost like they are not even human, since they are all-so perfect?

In my book, The Connected and Committed Leader, I say that vulnerability and transparency is a trait needed in leaders. When we are transparent and vulnerable, others can connect to us and our messages. When we are more human and less perfect, we can lead and others willingly follow.

When we strive for perfection we get cut off from the richness that underlies imperfection.

I see the stride for perfection cause people to stop dead in their tracks. It keeps them from pursuing their passions, from being fulfilled and from finding joy.

Try letting go of that need to be perfect and embrace imperfection for more lasting results at work and at home.

Laura Lopez is an award-winning author of The Connected and Committed Leader. She is also a consultant, and a Birkman Method certified business and life coach who has been featured on the Today Show and Fox News. In addition, her accomplishments have been highlighted in several business periodicals including Personal Excellence, The Long Beach Business Journal, The Houston Chronicle, Latina Magazine, and Central Valley Business Times. Her articles on management and leadership are regularly seen in Leadership Excellence.

Laura can be contacted via her Web site.

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