I was having a discussion with someone recently about how hard we all try (well, okay, about how hard I try). At everything. Really, at everything. Even though I think I’ve stopped trying that hard. They recommended I aim for an A-, instead of an A.

“Instead of an A,” I laughed. “Who aims for an A?” When I was in sixth grade my teacher made up a grade for me, A-WD, A, With Distinction. I had gotten too many A++’s and she needed a new grade for my work.

Now, I may have gotten great grades because I was smart and I worked hard, and I may have gotten great grades because I worked too hard…at everything. In the past I’ve tended to make sure that I always did the best I could. In everything. And when my efforts, or results, were less than stellar, I hated it. And probably myself.

So it was recommended I try for an A- and I like that idea. I may even let myself slip to a B sometimes. Not everything is worth doing perfectly. Not everything is worth the extra effort. And besides, many would argue, there is no such thing as perfect. Or perhaps – the Zen way – everything is perfect just as it is?

Does pushing for perfectionism have a place in Thoughtful Leadership? We say, “No!” Being dissatisfied with perfectly good results or placing impossibly high standards on yourself or your team does not create a great work environment nor elevate your leadership. Somehow many of us learned to do “better than our best,” as Maria in The Sound of Music suggests. And while striving for high performance and rallying people around a big compelling vision that may seem out of reach are what great leaders do, acknowledging when efforts are good enough and letting go of the need for perfection are also signs of a great leader.

I support my clients to their best and most effective efforts, and I know that many of us could be happier, and even more productive and successful, if we substituted smart work for hard work. And put our efforts into the things that really mattered.

So, I’m aiming for an A-. I’m stopping the blog here, not writing more, and letting it be enough. I’m going to go enjoy the rest of my day, rather than working towards my A-WD. How about you?

How are you striving too hard?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in aiming, at times, for an A-, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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