Progress over Perfection
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
It has been said by many leadership guru's that our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness. People often struggle with this idea because they think "well, if it's a strength, it must be a good, and you can never have too much of a good thing, right?". Unfortunately, wrong. Like so many other things in life, effective human behaviour is about balance, and the right balance can be very hard to find.
An often-cited strength/weakness of mine is my critical thinking skills. There are many upsides of this skill, which have benefitted me in my career. It has helped me build credibility with stakeholders, it has helped me make sound decisions and it has earned me a reputation as a trusted coach who can be counted on to help others think things through in a very comprehensive, practical and meaningful way. When I present facts or make a decision, people trust that I have done my due diligence and I'm making a sound recommendation.
So, what's the downside? IT WEIGHS ME DOWN. There is no situation too big or too small for my critical thinking skills and it can pain me (and others) with the level of thinking, evaluating, assessing and deliberating that I might engage in to get to a decision. Hmmmm.....top 10 albums of your lifetime activity on FaceBook? Well now, let me go back and do a thorough review of every year of my life since birth and consider what I was listening to at that time. Perhaps I should consult some family members and some friends and have them weigh in as well, just to make sure that I am not forgetting any, perhaps I will make a chart and rank them all.....You see my point, right?
It was a few years ago when I paused, and really started to understand how this skill, which had netted me so many great results in my career, was also holding me back. I was now working in an environment which valued quick wins and superficial accolades over weighing all the relevant information with a view to planning for the best long term outcomes. I was aghast. How could others be satisfied with the lack of due diligence and the ensuing mediocrity? When I tried to push for deeper thinking, I was often perceived as "not on the bus" or "negative" in my thinking, when in my mind, I was valiantly trying to raise our collective thinking to a higher level so that we might achieve greater results. I felt unseen, unheard and misunderstood in this environment and I quickly became disengaged, complacent and absent. What I realized however, is that even through disengagement and complacency we learn, if we are open to it. While I still very much value the process of carefully thinking things through and doing my due diligence, I learned in some cases "good" is good enough. Sometimes you can trust your gut, you can wing a presentation and speak up when you are less than 100% clear on your point of view. After all, we are all just a work in progress, aren't we? We don't have to get it 100% right 100% of the time, do we?
The optimal balance for me as a career coach is to be thoughtful and knowledgeable in my opinions and decisions, but also know when I know enough that I can take a leap of faith, even when I don't have all the facts and numbers to back it up. While effectively managing this balance will likely be a life-long pursuit for me, my personal development in this space is what enabled me to follow my own purpose, which is to help others realize theirs. In my capacity as a coach I am grateful to apply those critical thinking skills to help others uncover the answers they are seeking....and help them discover their optimal balance, whatever it may be.