February 2012

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff


Hate To Tell You This… But You're Not Perfect

That's right, you're not perfect. Deal with it and stop beating yourself up.

Leaders have to be a bit imperfect or they wouldn't survive the pressures of the job. I've devoted my career to working with leaders and, being one myself; we're all more or less imperfect - perhaps even a little bit crazy, given the challenges we willingly take on.

I've coaxed leaders to come down off the edge when they were ready to jump. I've wiped tears from their eyes when they've been beaten down and needed a little hope. I've coached leaders with egos so big their heads could barely fit through the front door of their own companies.

I've coached leaders with communication skills so crude and abrasive, they sandblasted their employees every time they spoke. And I've coached leaders obsessed with finding everything that's wrong in their companies and never show appreciation for jobs well done. I have yet to find the perfect leader and I've never been accused of being one.

To me, the perfect leader is imperfect. It's the imperfections that allow you to lead. It's the imperfections that make you unique and shape your thinking and behavior.

To be a perfect leader, every decision would have to be the right decision. Every new hire would be the right one. Every confrontation or difficult conversation would be executed with the skill of a brain surgeon. Every performance review would conclude with a happy employee. Every employee would be supportive, respectful and loyal to you.

What, no drama? Sounds like a pretty boring company to me.

Well, if you are not perfect, here are some no-compromise strategies to help you deal with your imperfections:

Get better: If you're 100 percent committed to getting better as a leader and continuously making progress, you're on the right track.

The best leaders, no-compromise leaders, are extraordinarily self-aware. They know their imperfections and work on them every day. They read leadership books, attend courses and work with a coach.

It's the simple principle of continuous personal improvement. Sure, they beat themselves up when they really mess up, but they also learn from their experiences and get right back in the game. I love working with leaders who want to get better. I fire leaders who want me to fix everyone else.

Never an excuse: Using your imperfections as an excuse is a compromise and a cop-out. The no-compromise leader never says, "Well, that's just how I am." There is a difference between acknowledging and working on your imperfections and flaunting them at the expense of others.

A leader will never earn the respect of others by being disrespectful, inconsiderate or heartless. Employees respect imperfect leaders when those leaders are working to get better. Using imperfections as an excuse is simply arrogant.

The dark side: There is a danger to getting consumed with fixing your imperfections. It's called loss of confidence; in its worst form it's called depression. Constantly beating yourself up for making mistakes, bad decisions and not being liked by others can chip away at your confidence.

And the one quality that a leader must never lose is confidence. When you fall to the dark side, it's impossible to hide it from others. Followers will lose faith in you. And they may even help you beat yourself up. I know. I've been there.

Gotta laugh: There are just times when you have to lighten up and laugh at your imperfections. Taking yourself too seriously just leads to stress and the best stress reducer is laughter. To laugh at the crazy things that make you special shows your human side. The next time one of your imperfections deserves a good laugh, share it with others so everyone can lighten up for a few minutes.

Acknowledge and celebrate your imperfections, but never give in to them. Never allow them to take center stage and overshadow what is perfect about you. Continue to evolve as a no-compromise leader by getting better one day at a time.

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Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching salon specializing in the salon and spa industry. Ducoff is the author of Fast Forward, and his new book, No-Compromise Leadership, is available at www.amazon.com. For a signed copy, go to www.strategies.com You can email Neil at neil@strategies.com