Don’t Wait For Perfect

pic for perfect

Leadership is comprised of an abundance of imperfection. We work in imperfect environments with imperfect choices. Our team members and colleagues are imperfect human beings. Our bosses and their bosses are imperfect leaders attempting to set agendas and direction that for sure are imperfect. We tackle our assignments and projects utilizing imperfect data and information. To all this imperfection, add our personal lives and relationships. And yes, those are definitely imperfect too.

So why do we work so diligently to achieve perfection? Really, why do we even have the word “perfect” in our vocabulary?

According to the dictionary, “perfect” is defined as:

  • being entirely without fault or defect 
  • satisfying all requirements 
  • corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept

Looking at these definitions we begin to learn the truth about perfection. Does a workplace or project exist that is completely free of fault or defect? Is the information we gather so comprehensive that we are meeting all the requirements? Are there any human beings we see in our personal or professional lives that reflect an ideal standard?

Don’t wait for perfect and instead:


Leaders know that perfect data is a myth and we need to look at the information we are presented and work with that. One manager recently shared with me his frustration with missing pieces of a study he was hoping would prove his points. Sometimes we aren’t presented with everything we need so we may want to explore more studies, ask more questions and pull together a not so obvious conclusion.


Knowing we may never have all the facts and numbers, we still need to make decisions. That means that we must lead from a gray area, rather than from a black and white perspective. Making decisions with ambiguity is the way of the global world today.


We all come to the table with strengths in different areas. How unbalanced our teams and collaborations would be if we all had the same talents and gifts. To support one another and truly lead we can:

  • Help others find their gifts and specialties
  • Stop berating the weaknesses of our team members
  • Share with our colleagues how we overcame our challenges
  • Play to everyone’s strengths


When we strive for perfection we tend to jump to conclusions before thinking through the entire situation. Do you know the number one way we can stop ourselves from making assumptions? By listening completely. Just today when I was coaching a young leader, I jumped in before letting her complete her thought. I was totally off and when I let her finish, she was going in a totally different direction. Just pause and listen.


Without shoving an idea or strategy down someone’s throat, encourage a partnering of ways to achieve an end result that doesn’t require perfection.

  • Ask how they would go about completing the project
  • Find out what has worked for them in the past
  • Be present and focused when brainstorming and problem solving
  • Share a story of how a particular approach panned out for you


To begin the dissolution of perfection, leaders must embrace making mistakes. Since there are no perfect facts or solutions, making a mistake empowers us to be authentic leaders, vulnerable as much as anyone else we work with. When mistakes are made, admit them, evaluate why they happened and then decide on a better approach for next time.


The best plan for teams that want to debunk the myth of perfection is taking action even if it is riskier. It is far better to take the risk and be wrong or imperfect, than wait around for all the facts and figures. That delay might cause a lost opportunity. Try that new job opportunity. Tackle that project that no one wants. Ask the department that you have stayed clear of to join you in solving your challenge. If you don’t someone else will.

How have you led around perfection? What strategies helped you debunk the myth of needing “perfect”?

8 thoughts on “Don’t Wait For Perfect

  1. Terri – I’m a big believer that if we wait for perfection, we’ll be waiting forever. I appreciate that you encourage leaders to act with the information that they have – it’s oftentimes the best they can do.

    I also love your past point – take more risks. Whenever you start a new activity or a new job, you may jump in with gusto but you also learn. Taking a risk implies that you may not have a perfect landing but to go for it anyway. You can always stabilize along the way. It reminds me of when I learned to roller blade. I thought I’d be great at it (how hard could it be!?) It was tough and it was a challenge and it stretched and pushed me and in the end, I was better than when I started (yet still far, far from perfect).

    Will share!


  2. Today we lead with a great deal of ambiguity as all the facts may not be available even though we must reach a decision in very short timeframes. Yet, taking a stand and following a particular path even if it isn’t perfect, is far better than waiting around for all the details to emerge. I see this all the time with young leaders who want to present a positive impression but may not possess all the skills or knowledge needed. My suggestion is always to “go for it” and fill in the blanks later.

    Love your roller blade story! Thanks for sharing and adding your insightful perspective, Alli!

  3. Great topic, Terri, because many of us do strive to be perfect—and that is nothing but a disaster waiting to happen.

    I’ve also noticed that many people will not make a decision unless they have 100% of the information—again, a disaster waiting to happen. Good leadership requires a fine-tuning of instinct and gut reaction…

  4. Although it is important to gather as much information as possible, it is sometimes necessary to make our decisions based on what is available. By waiting for all potential data, leaders can often miss an opportunity to act. Also, situations change so rapidly that most projects evolve as they are tackled.

    Thanks so much LaRae for your insights!

  5. Such an important message. I see so many people get stuck waiting for the perfect time or circumstance and they miss what could be great, perhaps not perfect, but damn good 😉

  6. Damn good is fantastic! I think if more leaders made that their goal, there would be more decision-making and action.

    Thanks Karin for chiming in!

  7. Impressive & extraordinary write up and subsequent comments. The overall & combined effect of all these points is again ……….. ironically is ………. quest / efforts for “Perfection” ?
    For a nation / organization to survive and become a model nation, the path (thinking & working) toward perfection is necessary in this tough new world order.
    Zafarmanzoor. Sr. Ex. FFC. Pakistan.

  8. There is perfect and then there is working diligently with the information we have. Sometimes we need to deal with ambiguity and base our decisions on imperfect data. That’s the world today.

    Thanks so much Zafar!

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