10 Ways to Deal with Perfectionistic Roadblockers
A Leadership Freak reader asked, “How do you deal with others who expend energy stopping people from reaching their goals?” The context is perfectionism. Perfectionistic roadblockers may act intentionally or accidentally out of ignorance.
The paralysis of perfection is rampant.
Four types of perfectionistic roadblockers:
- Vision that’s so big it paralyzes.
- Nitpicking next steps because they aren’t big enough.
- Nothing but perfection will do. What about?
- Lack of commitment to organizational direction. They don’t want to go there in the first place.
Strategies for dealing with perfectionistic roadblockers:
- Listen to them! They may be right.
- Persistently say, “Complex problems have more than one solution.” This opens the door to choosing reasonable options and moving forward. There are no perfect solutions.
- Advocate for incomplete solutions that enable forward movement. An incomplete solution is better than no solution and no movement.
- Determine if is some movement is better than none; it usually is.
- Evaluate often. Ask, “Is the path we chose getting us there.” When you adopt incomplete solutions commit to evaluate them quickly.
- Ask if they have better options. Many love to complain that we AREN’T there but don’t make positive suggestions.
- Celebrate progress. Perfectionists love to point out that current progress isn’t enough. Celebrate anyway. Honor people who make positive contributions.
- One reader adds, “Learn to walk away and disassociate from people who drag the energy out of your vision, to interact with them brings you down to their level.
- Another reader added, “I Look for the key values these people hold (and I share). When delivering a partial solution I aim to demonstrate how this meets our values and moves them toward their vision.”
What types of perfectionistic roadblockers have you observed?
How do you deal with perfectionistic roadblocks?
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DBMP BMS = Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions! If you have that on your door, or on your white board, or on a place card on your desk, two things happen.
1. People – all of them, perfectionists included – start bringing you solutions, and
2. You start listening to them.
If you advertise that you want solutions, you have to consider them seriously when they come your way.
I’ve been talking to plant managers across North America about this lately. The actions and reactions have been surprisingly positive.
Hmmm… but solutions to what:
(i) problems you told them you had?
(ii) problems your clients/customers told them they had?
(iii) problems they engineered to impress you?
Key thing here is, do you pre-qualify: what was the problem? really? is that a BIG issue? who for? why? Okay… now tell me about YOUR solution to it – and tell me about how you’ve checked you’re not beginning to reinvent the axle?
….hmmmm…. am I draining your energy right now?
The way I deal with perfectionists head on is to ask them what they want. What’s your end game?
Get agreement early and check in with them along the way. Ask, are we on track?
Tell me what you want, or I’ll give you exactly what you asked for.
That is a good suggestion. Thank you!
I have at times been a perfectionist roadblocker by confusing idealized future with incremental goals and objectives. I am learning to recognize those things that yield benefit and progress while remaining integratable with long term strategy. This helps immensely. Thanks Dan!
I am a recovered perfectionist, and I work for one. I am unempowered due his control. Everything has to be his idea. He will not delegate. Solutions are not celebrated or encouraged only criticized. It’s such a negative and toxic environment that my only option is to leave. So I will be out soon as I have many options open to me. After 5 years, I feel unwelcome and deserve more. I’m a leader and can offer alot. I think he’s limiting company growth by not seeing the benefits others bring.
I’m with ya on this one…toxic and limiting growth is the theme in my situation too (see my comments in Dan’s previous post). As a mental perfectionist (not a perfectionist re:physical things), working with one who is 100% in control leads to severe powerlessness and worthlessness, over time.
I would respect all opinions – be they coming from perfectionists or not. But would always remind myself that I have my actionable plans/solutions, that my work progress will not be paralyzed by their opinions.
Some people will not change until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of the change. Create a crisis calling for action now. People act far faster to avoid losing something than they do to realize gain.
I have bumped into both, “Vision that’s so big it paralyzes” and “Nothing but perfection will do. What about?” These drive me crazy sometimes because I am a expressive temperament with ideas to “take over the world”. And it’s like they are always throwing a wrench in my plans. But a lot of the times they really aren’t. I’ve learned to listen to them. They might see something in the plan I didn’t consider to that’s a good thing!
Hi Dan I agree with Steve (above) I just ask what is it that you want and can I do it my way or how do you want it done. Then I just keep them posted. They are hard ones to work with, but since I tend to be a bit of one when it comes to me, I can understand them. Great points and have a great Sunday.
Dan, thanks for the great posts the past two days. They’re getting me off my bloggers block. I want to provide the perfect framework for my blog, but probably better just to write and let it come out one piece at a time. On perfectionists, I agree with the listen and engage comments. Looking for the perfect outcome for a project can be a healthy thing done right because it brings out opportunities not considered when you get too focused on tasks and process. But, you have to define perfect in real ways. So you can ask “What’s the perfect outcome?” and then ask “What’s the perfect way to get there?” If you can engage the whole team in the conversation, then you form a basis for real things that can be done as a collaboration. The team conversation brings out values and dreams. It helps perfectionists be less so and ‘good enoughs’ be better.
My experience of perfectionist types is that they are almost always frightened of something so significant that it’s difficult to break through with them. They are actually bullies. When possible, I try to bully them back and find that they don’t mind being told what to do. However, it’s a situational response and they got back to perfection the next time you interact. Bulling the bully is exhausting. Hence, I resort the line, ‘Don’t walk away from them. Run!’
I am a Lead Pastor and I am not a perfectionist. My associate is a perfectionist to perfectionist. The key is he has a great heart for God and aligns himself with the vision. That has made him one of the biggest assets to my ministry. We disagree completely at times. But he is a compliment to my weakness. I listen and I also know when to not listen and move ahead. He gets lost in his details and I loathe details. We both understand ourselves and the other and it is a great match. You will be blessed if you can find the same. But a big dose of humility will be needed on both sides 🙂
For the perfectionists I manage I make it very clear what they have to work with (usually time.) They soon learn to cut their cloth accordingly. But you remind me that I must listen to them.
And for those with a big vision that is never realised I say go for an incremental approach and celebrate progress along the way.
Been there! Good piece, very relevant. I often find that these folks are risk averse, uncertainty is a big fear. Depending on the client; corporate or sme, we look at multiple options and break them down into bite sizes, run trial and, mini surveys, while building internal capacity around uncertainty …and an eye on starting!
I know I am late, but I have to say this post is right on time! Thank you for your advice!