Emotional intelligence: How to help teams fight perfectionism

Emotional intelligence: How to help teams fight perfectionism

Perfectionism can cripple teams. Emotionally intelligent leaders can use curiosity, persistence, collaboration, and empathy to help people stay agile and keep improving

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April 02, 2019

3. Embrace collaboration and acceptance

An emotionally intelligent leader will share some of their personal imperfections or criticisms they’ve overcome.

Emotionally intelligent people understand the power of collaboration. The logic behind collaborating in agile environments is simple: Collectively, a team has more knowledge, experience, and insight than an individual. Failing to use the unique experiences and insights of a diverse team is an opportunity wasted, but a perfectionistic mindset can easily disrupt a collaborative environment.

At the heart of perfectionism is a set of beliefs about oneself in relation to others. Actively striving for acceptance from others through overly ambitious achievements motivates perfectionistic habits. In software development environments, personal achievement cannot outshine the collective goals of the team. 

Leaders should not only encourage collaboration, but also create a collaborative environment of unconditional acceptance. Work environments can easily communicate approval, recognition, and appreciation only when work is completed within a particular standard.

The sentiment “I approve of you, recognize you, and value you as an employee because you are who you are,” can easily be replaced with “I approve of you, recognize you, and value you as an employee when your work is finished and you’ve done a good job.” If this is the only message that gets through, perfectionists can start to identify their sense of purpose within the team solely through performance.

An emotionally intelligent leader will actively communicate the positive characteristics and achievements of their teams, and even go so far as to share some of the personal imperfections or criticisms they’ve experienced and overcome.

4. Practice empathetic self-awareness

Empathy is a key characteristic of emotional intelligence. The definition of empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” But we also need to be able to practice empathetic self-awareness with ourselves as we work towards our goals.

[ Read also: Emotional intelligence test: Do your empathy skills need work? ]

Certain situations are beyond our control and prevent us from avoiding failure, despite our best efforts. Exceptional developers understand their work is going to fail, but they also understand that the faster they fail, the sooner they can repair the damage.

When we practice emotional intelligence, we take circumstances as they are and make the best of them. Self-awareness is the key to understanding the extent of what we’re capable of, and when something falls outside of those limits, understanding what we can do to improve next time.

Applying emotional intelligence to goals

A goal is simply an event; it’s something you can’t control entirely. Committing to a goal requires time, persistence, and an ongoing curiosity for learning. If you attempt to achieve a goal perfectly, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment. When you focus on building emotionally intelligent habits, you’ll be able to accept outcomes for what they are and continue to learn new ways to improve.

[ Leaders, do you want to give your team a greater sense of urgency? Get our free resource: Fast Start Guide: Creating a sense of urgency, with John Kotter. ]

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