Did you ever get asked that awful interview question:
‘What’s your greatest weakness?’
I hated it. I can’t remember what I answered back in the days when I had a ‘proper’ job, but it was probably something cringey, like:
“Sometimes I care too much about my work”
‘ <coy shrug> I’m a perfectionist.’
Take that! I thought. That’s right, I like things TOO perfect. We both know it’s not really a weakness, but you can’t say I haven’t answered your question.
The job is mine, ALL MINE!’ <evil laugh, mic drop>
Like ‘control freak’, the term ‘perfectionist’ is worn as a badge of honour these days.
‘I’m better than you because I have such high standards,’ it says. ‘Bow to me, lesser beings.’
But we both know deep down that perfectionism isn’t a good thing.
Because our fear of not getting everything perfect often stops us from doing anything at all.
Luckily, the chaos of having kids helped knock perfectionism out of me. And the pandemic? Well, it’s been the nail in the coffin. ‘Just about getting by’ is my new happy place.
And this has never been put to the test more than this week. I’m filming the promo video for my book.
What should have been a one-day effort in a slick studio with professional hair and makeup, an autocue and tea on demand, has now become a mammoth task from home.
Director Dan sent me all the gear, has patiently showed me how to set it up, and directed over Zoom via the camera viewfinder.
On my side, I’ve got Dan balanced on a pile of books on a dining room chair, my script stuck to a lamp, and the garden extension cable plugging everything in.
It’s scrappy. Hard work. I have sworn. A lot. (Especially at the needy cat who keeps ruining the shots). But I think the result will be fantastic.
In fact, I suspect my video might be even better than planned, because I’ll seem more relaxed at home. It will feel more personal and genuine. Still professional, but more ‘me’.
Because when it comes to communication, perfectionism is a double-edged sword.
Yes, we want to work hard at being clear, concise and compelling. To be grammatically correct. To be polished and professional.
But sometimes comms that are too perfect are just cold. They’re too corporate. Too glossy.
They lack the emotion that they need to connect with other people. And so they get ignored. For example….
- Emails that use overly formal language or business jargon (‘Please utilise the attached form to submit your application’)
- Videos where the presenter is emotionless with rigidly scripted hand gestures.
- Social media posts that start with ‘We are delighted to announce…’
Blah. Blah. Blah. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.
If this last year has shown us anything, it’s that we need to rethink our business communication.
It’s showed us that we CAN be more informal. That we CAN make business more personal.
Because we’re all just people talking to people.
And if we want people to act, then we have to connect emotionally with them.
We have to sound and act like humans. To show more of ourselves than the smooth, glossy exterior.
So don’t wait for perfect – it’s unlikely to ever come. But do keep on getting out there, connecting with people, even if it is a little scrappy right now.
It might just be perfectly imperfect.