Yes, you must develop the habit of excellence, even in little matters. However, the price of perfection can be prohibitive. A maniacal emphasis on excellence can lead to a blind obsession that can drain productivity.
If you’re a manager, insisting on perfection everywhere can hurt workplace morale, reduce employee engagement, and decrease opportunities for innovation and change.
Managers too often call for excellence in the small things because they’re unable to prioritize what matters most. These managers tend to be the ones who also struggle with delegation—given their exacting standards, it makes sense that they would have difficulty letting others do their job. And because monitoring people’s efforts is often time-consuming and difficult, perfectionist managers tend to just decide that it’s easier and quicker to do the job themselves.
Smart Managers Have the Self-Discipline to Turn Excellence On and Off
The smart managers I know of accomplish great things because they often have a “sixth sense” that reminds them that some activities matter more than others do and therefore merit more attention.
They give themselves permission to produce second-rate work on the road to doing a first-rate job.
They are very selective about when they push their teams to the max—only when the stakes are big enough and when it’s entirely justified.
Idea for Impact: Be Excellent Occasionally
Expecting excellence in every detail uses up a lot of bandwidth.
Get comfortable with a little bit of lower quality now and then. Less-than-excellent is a satisfactory outcome. As the British novelist W. Somerset Maugham once warned, “only a mediocre person is always at his best.”
Making a conscious decision about where excellence matters and where it doesn’t is particularly pertinent to managerial success.
In the real world of limited resources, perfection is hard to achieve. The quest for excellence sucks up time, energy, and money that could generate better results elsewhere.
Managers, step back and look at the whole picture. You don’t have enough resources to do everything, so commit them where they’ll bring the greatest overall improvement (use the lens of opportunity costs.)
Have exacting standards, but don’t demand excellence in every idea.
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