Entrepreneurs naturally want their businesses to be as perfect as possible. What many business leaders may not realize, however, is that in striving for perfection, they may actually be doing more harm than good.
Leaders who always seek perfection can end up delaying projects, spending unnecessary money, destroying team morale and undermining their own self-confidence if they aren’t careful about how they channel this perfectionism. To provide guidance on how to do just that, the members of the Young Entrepreneur Council shared their best advice for overcoming perfectionism in business.
15 Ways for Business Leaders to Overcome Perfectionism
- Understand that failure is necessary.
- Be satisfied with completion.
- Overcome your self-criticism.
- Find a mentor.
- Try it first, then look to improve.
- Practice self-awareness.
- Weigh the risks.
- Learn how to receive criticism positively.
- Be perfect where it matters.
- Set achievable, realistic goals.
- Know that you’re good enough.
- Learn to trust others.
- Ask if you’re masking failure or procrastinating.
- Pursue excellence, but value action.
- Never let perfect stand in the way of great.
1. Understand That Failure Is Necessary
Failure is a necessary part of the path to success. I’ve struggled with perfectionism and a “fix it” mentality all throughout my time as an entrepreneur, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes. Recently, I’ve begun to understand that failure is actually a necessary element of success. We don’t learn from being perfect all the time, and we would never improve if we did everything right on the first try. —Danny Beckett, FlexTal
2. Be Satisfied With Completion
I’m definitely in the Type A camp and often tend to do more than required. I think we all can take a step back and analyze if we got the job done. If the end goal is satisfied, how someone achieved it may or may not be as important in some cases. It’s better to ensure that things happen and get done than to not get them done at all because they’re not perfect. You can always refine things later. —Maria Thimothy, OneIMS
3. Overcome Your Self-Criticism
To overcome perfectionism in your business, overcome your self-criticism. If you have a harsh, unforgiving inner critic, you won’t be satisfied with your accomplishments, no matter how big. Learn to accept failure and speak to yourself kindly when you mess up. The best way to get back up again is through compassion and giving yourself room to make mistakes. —Jared Atchison, WPForms
4. Find a Mentor
New leaders who are obsessed with perfecting every part of their business should consider finding a mentor. Look for someone who has walked in your shoes and likely made the same mistakes. Talk out your problems, and they will help you determine if you are stretching yourself thin or if your vision is in reach. —John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC
5. Try It First, Then Look to Improve
Do it well, then make it better. Planning can only go so far before you actually have to try something out to see what can be improved. Often, I’ll create a horrible first draft, print it out, sleep on it and look at it again with fresh eyes in the morning. Many times, I’ll start all over completely, but the horrible first draft got me closer to the better, final version. —Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office
6. Practice Self-Awareness
When dealing with perfectionist tendencies, you must practice self-awareness so you know what habits you need to stop. You’re likely not even aware of your thought patterns since they’ve become so normalized in your thinking process. To catch yourself in the act, try journaling about your thoughts, no matter what they are. See if you notice a pattern in the way you speak to yourself. —Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
7. Weigh the Risks
An old adage says, “Without risk, there is no reward.” This applies to leaders who can’t get out of their own way because they’re obsessed with perfectionism. In business, you have to move quickly. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Weigh the opportunities and costs of moving forward with an error versus waiting until everything is perfect. What will you give up? What’s the opportunity cost of perfectionism? —Jonathan Prichard, MattressInsider.com
8. Learn How to Receive Criticism Positively
It can be a lot easier to let go of your perfectionism if you don't take criticism personally. Accept the fact that making mistakes is OK. Consider healthy criticism to be normal and important for your overall growth. Once you start accepting that, overcoming your obsession with perfecting everything is a lot easier. —Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite
9. Be Perfect Where It Matters
Prioritize where you strive for perfection. For example, perfecting a product or presentation can lead to innovation and high-quality products. So, I strive to do that at all times. On the other hand, perfecting the look of the office or the cleanliness of the building or other super nitpicky things that don’t actually affect the company’s product or service can harm the morale of employees. —Shu Saito, Godai Soaps
10. Set Achievable, Realistic Goals
Most perfectionists tend to set goals that end up being unachievable because of how unrealistic they are. A good way of overcoming perfectionism is to set achievable and realistic goals. Doing so will make you feel less stressed. This helps you focus and be more efficient in what you do and is a great way of boosting your confidence and achieving your goals. —Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
11. Know That You’re Good Enough
The problem with perfectionism isn’t that you’re aiming for perfection, but that you end up thinking that you’re not good enough. You do more to be more, thinking that you’ll never be great. Perfectionism is not really about wanting the best result, but about wanting more people to accept, notice and promote you. Know your value and stop wanting people’s attention. —Daisy Jing, Banish
12. Learn to Trust Others
Trust people beneath you to do things properly or to learn if they make a mistake. Trust that something less than perfect can still perform its function. Remember, if you’ve created a business that will fall apart without you, then you don’t run a business — you just have a job. Don’t let a commitment to perfectionism sink your ability to trust people or processes. —Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts
13. Ask If You’re Masking Fear or Procrastinating
A difficult but revealing question an entrepreneur can ask themselves is, “Is my perfectionism masking a fear of failure or am I just procrastinating?” Perfectionism is often a way to avoid taking action and putting your product out in the world. Realizing this can help you stop focusing on details that don’t matter, and you’ll relax enough to move forward. —Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
14. Pursue Excellence, but Value Action
The concept of perfection can be a terrible trap. Striving for perfection consumes extreme amounts of thought and energy, oftentimes resulting in failure to complete your current project and maybe even every task that has stacked up in the interim. Pursue excellence, but also value action. Know whether that project demands perfection or if “good” will result in a similarly positive outcome. —Ashley Sharp, Dwell With Dignity
15. Never Let Perfect Stand in the Way of Great
I’m a perfectionist myself, so I’ve struggled with decision paralysis when I felt like something wasn’t the best it could be. People often talk about “done is better than perfect,” but I think it’s better to remember that you should never let “perfect” stand in the way of “great.” Making things simpler might help — and simple doesn't have to mean lower quality. —Anik Decoste, MTTR