“I sometimes allowed my competitiveness to get in the way of my integrity”
Quote from Australian Sportsperson
The statement above is an admission that this person sometimes behaved in ways that didn’t meet the standards they had set for themselves.
I listen to Sting’s albums a fair bit, so I have heard over and over the line:
“The search for perfection is all very well, but to look for heaven is to live here in hell”
Humans are not perfect. Businesses, companies, organisations, societies, communities, clubs and associations are made up of people. They are a collection of the imperfect who have agreed to work together to achieve more than they could individually. There are going to be times when their actions don’t meet the expectations that have been set, both their own expectations and the expectations of others.
It is one thing to set achievable and realistic targets. It is another thing altogether to punish or withhold reward because the targets weren’t achieved, to treat this as a failure. Professional basketballers don’t shoot at 100%, Olympic archers don’t hit the bullseye with every arrow and exploration companies don’t find oil every time they drill. Yet they are the best in their fields.
We can set our values and believe they are important, but sometimes we are going to fall short, in our personal lives, our community lives and our professional lives. We do forget a birthday, don’t get to the school play and are unable to complete our project on time.
When we don’t meet our standards, we need to acknowledge it and ask why. But often businesses and individuals label falling short of standards or targets as failure.
Failure is only one possible reason for not meeting the standards or targets. The framework around which those expectations are built may be unsound. The external environment may have been difficult or impossible to predict. We may have taken a risk which only partially succeeded, but was still worth taking because of the value we obtained from the experience.
Common reasons that modern companies fall short of targets are the sheer number of targets they set and the failure to link targets throughout the company. The setting of multiple targets often reflects a lack of focus and a lack of trust in your staff, not the environment to bring out the best in people.
If you think in terms of perfection, you are setting yourself and your organisation up for failure, and you will be unable to create long term sustainable success. If your success relies on establishing the perfect system, the leanest process, performance reviews that punish or withhold reward if perfect performance isn’t achieved, then sooner or later, your business is going to fail.
There is a responsibility on business leaders to remember that they are looking after people, such as their customers, their suppliers and their staff, and that people will not achieve perfection.