Kevin Lloyd: 3 Problems with Perfection

My youngest daughter has done something I was never able to. The basketball team she is on finished their regular season undefeated and went on to win a championship. I watched every game as those 9-10 year old girls dominated other teams, often winning by over 20 points.

They were perfect.

Her season was exciting. I needed therapy after every game! Keep in mind, it was a season. It began and it ended. In that format, perfection is a noble goal.

While perfection is inspiring when sought for a season, it is impossible when leading for long-term impact. To lead day after day, year after year, chasing perfect will wear you out. The pursuit of perfection can paralyze leaders. It is not realistic.

Ministry leaders may struggle with this more than others believing God deserves our best so we should lead for perfection. We serve a perfect Savior. It's important to remember that He is the One who is perfect, not us. Allow Christ to be the perfecter of your work, our focus is on trusting Him in the process.

I want to share with you 3 problems with trying to be a perfect leader who only accepts perfect results. 

Perfect is the enemy of productive.

Leaders execute. They get things done quickly, consistently and with little drama. Those who seek perfection are always "waiting" on something to be perfect. Conditions must be ideal and every wrinkle ironed out before a perfectionist can take action. The problem is, I don't have time to wait! Too often we allow perfect to slow up our progress. Done is better than perfect.  

To move away from perfect and closer to productivity, pull the trigger on a task when it is only 80% complete. Go public with a plan before you have every detail figured out. Allow someone to hold you accountable to execute instead of waiting too long. 

Here is a system for getting things accomplished without waiting too long: Execute Quickly. Make pulling the trigger a habit. Set dates for yourself for going public. Tweak Consistently. As soon as you go public, begin to make adjustments. Google uses the "beta phase" of any project to allow for improvements. Tinker Occasionally. Never stop improving. Habitually circle back to toy around with adjustments to better any system, project or idea.

Perfection is often mistaken for excellence.

Everyone should strive to do their best work. Excellence should be a value that guides your work, drives you to deliver more than is asked, and pushes you to constantly improve everything. However, excellence has a dark side. Unguarded excellence creates unrealistic standards of perfection. Excellence is not an act, but habit. Perfection is a singular moment.

In his book, Moving Past Perfect, Thomas Greenspon referred to the following quote:

"Excellence is risk. Perfection is fear. Excellence is effort. Perfection is anger and frustration. Excellence is openness to being wrong. Perfection is having to be right. Excellence is spontaneity. Perfection is control. Excellence is flow. Perfection is pressure. Excellence is confidence. Perfection is doubt. Excellence is journey. Perfection is destination. Excellence is acceptance. Perfection is judgement. Excellence is encouraging. Perfection is criticizing."

Perfection doesn't scale.

Chasing perfect chokes growth. Why? Because perfection depends on you! To maintain perfect you have to make every decision and approve every move. Perfect does not scale because you do not scale. Perfection demands an expert talent; excellence requires an empowering leader.

Church leaders struggle with this. Our tendency to hold on to the past for too long or control every move stunts church growth. While some degree of talent likely got you where you are, it will not take you where you need to go. The growth of your team or church depends on you raising your own leadership capacity. You scale your leadership when you pour it into other people. The results may not be perfect, but it will be powerful.

As you tackle today, do so with excellence. Make it a habit you value. Excellence will lead you to be more fulfilled, more effective and less stressed than the pursuit of perfection ever could. 

Keep Leading Bravely!


Kevin is a coach for couragetolead.com. He is also Executive Pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia, and the founder of LeadBravely.org. Kevin specializes in strategic thinking, financial health and developing teams. He lives in Augusta, GA, with his wife, Melissa, and two daughters.