When Being “Right” Does Not Serve You or Others
Many, many years ago I worked as a personal assistant, I did all sorts of things, one of which was wrapping my bosses’ family’s Christmas presents. I love wrapping, so I would meticulously fold the edges, adjust the tape so it was virtually invisible, and perfectly position the ribbon as a work of art. I remember marveling at my small colorful creations.
I would proudly present my art and invariably was met with critiques, re-do’s, suggestions, and comments about how it was not “right”. The ribbon was to be on the side, the bow needed to be doubled, and the box was the wrong shape… the comments never stopped. Yes, we are still talking about Christmas presents. I remember feeling defeated and kept thinking, “if you wanted it done like that why didn’t you tell me, or better yet, do it yourself and save me the time and humiliation?” I felt that I routinely failed in her eyes.
Positive Intelligence describes this saboteur as the “Stickler”, it is the perfectionist voice in your head that says “It has to be done this way”, “I can do best”, and “Others' standards are not high enough”.
While we all have a bit of the Stickler in us if it gets the best of you it can create anxiety, frustration, an abundance of work, and rigidness. Others may perceive you as highly critical, opinionated, and intense. Is this what you see as success?
In Positive Intelligence we talk a lot about self-leadership, awareness, and intentionality. Without those, you naturally respond and think in certain ways, the way that is easy, fast, and “how you always have done it.” If you have noticed your outcomes and/ or relationships are not as you wish, consider spending some time learning how you think, how that perspective serves you, and what is the impact on others. It is with this awareness that you will have the opportunity of CHOICE.
If the stickler sounds familiar, listen up. While it is this trait that has partly created your success, it is also the very thing that is causing you anxiety, keeping you up at night, and alienates your team. Your colleagues quickly realized that no matter what they do, it will not be “good enough” and they will stop trying or at least, won’t give 100%.
In truth, only about 20% of things need to be done “perfectly”. The other 80% is up for negotiation.
So how do you shift this mindset and use the Stickler traits to your advantage?
Become aware of what triggers you to double down and at that moment take a moment to reset your mind.
Think about the 80/20 rule. Create guardrails so your fear of failure is not guiding criticism. Identify what falls into the 20%, and what are your non-negotiables. Communicating this to your team will reduce your fears.
Recognize that other approaches may be just as successful and may in fact teach you something. 4+1=5 and so does 3+2. A different approach, same outcome.
When the Stickler takes hold it robs you of your brilliance and shifts relationships toward the negative. The cost of “being right” does not pencil out.
My Challenge to You:
When you recognize the urge to correct another, micromanage or judge another performance, stop to ask yourself, “does this REALLY matter”? If not, give them and yourself the gift of grace.