FFE Magazine

The advantage of Imperfections

by FFE EU News Staff

 

Businesses are pressured to achieve goals quickly to prevent waste of time and money. But this means everyone has to work harder and longer to turn in a bigger profit. Faster doesn’t necessarily mean that jobs are done more efficiently, and mistakes are inevitable as is the need to fix them.

 

London Business School organisational behaviour professor Nigel Nicholson said that organisations who live by the motto ‘We are the best and we are people who do wonderful things’ have leaders who set their expectations too high.

 

Nicholson explained that this leads to bad behaviour like cheating. He said ‘Terrible disasters have been caused by people airbrushing over mistakes they don’t want to admit.

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‘Often driven by unreasonable expectations, such as “We are an organisation that doesn’t make mistakes”, you are immediately encouraging people to conceal errors.’

 

Psychotherapist and executive coach Julia Vaughan Smith added that employees who are pressured to reach unrealistic targets by business leaders are forced to keep up with the pace and fear speaking up.

 

Perfectionists will go to great lengths to avoid failure. Fear of failure is often rooted in the imagination, but as a result, can lead people to want more control of their environment.

 

One manager in a retail marketing business who admitted to be a perfectionist said that he often worked late at night to defeat fears of making an error. He added that he can only feel secure when his environment is in order. He said ‘Part of the problem is me, part is the work culture. Companies are cutting back on so many things and there simply isn’t the investment in people. As a manager myself, when I recruit people I expect them to hit the ground running.’

 

He said he is trapped in a vicious cycle by being a perfectionist. His obsession with detail means he fails to see the bigger picture. He also ends up not delegating tasks and feeling overwhelmed with work.

 

One important factor that psychotherapists use for pressured parents is changing their perfectionist perspective to ‘good enough’ parenting. ‘Good enough’ means giving children enough room to thrive on their own. It also means parents recognise that they, too, have imperfections and limitations that make it difficult for them to support their children 100%. ‘Good enough’ means understanding mistakes are inevitable and necessary for growth and achievement.

 

Chief executive Eva Chen of Japanese software security firm Trend Micro uses the same principle to direct her company, which employs 5,000 people worldwide.

 

She said that natural and unpredictable events like the Eurozone crisis and the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami make goal-setting more unrealistic. At times of uncertainty, she said she depends on her staff’s talents and capacity to respond to change.

 

Chen emphasised that companies, and their leaders, must bend when unpredictable events happen: ‘We need our engineers to have the courage and ability to create new things. If I started to punish people, I would stop this whole innovation spirit.

 

‘If things are unpredictable you can’t expect people to set a goal and say you must achieve this goal. [Instead], say, “you have the spirit to overcome any problem, or any obstacle in the future” — that is all we can ask for.’

 

Chen said she wants managers to trigger meaningful conversations about the company and know how to delegate effectively. She added ‘A business is just like a person — it has emotions and non-logical thinking.

 

‘How can you expect a business, which is just a collection of people, not to have emotion? I think traditional business tries to ignore that part and believes that business can be run by logic. That is not true.’

 

During the credit crisis, her approach was to eliminate fear in the company’s climate to allow employees to flourish. As a result, Trend Micro’s sales doubled.

 

Chen’s approach is a great explanation of how the ‘good enough’ approach can benefit anxious parents and businesses alike. For a business to thrive even under extreme external pressure, it must embrace its people’s talents, thoughts and imperfections.

 

 

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