By David Bowman

I was in a session recently with a client that was stuck on getting “buy-in” from the rest of the organization after rollout.  I asked him what was going on, and he said that a few people hate every aspect of EOS®; they think that their L-10’s™ are a waste of time, and they see no value in even the most benign disciplines like the “segue” part of the agenda.  He went on to say that he didn’t do a very good job on the rollout and felt that if only he had done better at the Leadership Team tools, he would have explained EOS in a way that everyone would have bought in.  I wrote three things on the Issues List:

  1. L/T buy-in
  2. RP/RS buy-in
  3. Perfectionism

The Problem with Perfectionism

The first two items are obvious threads from the conversation, but it’s perfectionism that was the most fruitful and really the root cause of all three items on the Issues List.  I asked my client why he felt the need to have everyone “buy-in”?  He explained that their historical culture was that people could challenge the owners/leaders on any decision that they didn’t agree with and that “we can’t just rip that away from them.”  He went on to say that though he knew that the old culture wasn’t healthy, he felt that it wasn’t “right” to upset people and that it was his job to make sure that everyone sees the value in the new way in which decisions are made.

“Do you believe that you have defined a healthy culture with your Core Values?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

“Do you believe you have discovered a compelling vision in your Core Focus?”


“Do you believe that you are approaching leadership with the best of intentions and with the greater good in mind?” I continued.

“Yes,” he replied.

So, I pushed, “Why are you taking ownership of other people’s behavior?”

“Isn’t that what leaders do?” he replied.

Perfectionism vs. Achievement

One of the things I’ve learned in working with leaders of successful organizations is that there is a difference between high achievers and perfectionists.  High achievers are “pulled” by their goals; perfectionists are “pushed” by their internal dialogue to demonstrate or prove their worth either to themselves or their belief in other’s expectations of them.  *Vulnerability alert: I’ve struggled with perfectionist thinking and can speak to the level of internal angst and anxiety it creates.

I’ve read: “Perfectionism isn’t about perfecting things: your job, a specific project, the way you look, or a relationship. At a fundamental level, it’s about perfecting the self, and this urge doesn’t come from a healthy place: All components and dimensions of perfectionism ultimately involve attempts to perfect an imperfect self.”

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It is one thing to strive for excellence and to want to excel, but it is quite another to beat ourselves up endlessly for not achieving perfection. A cornerstone of resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity, but this is extremely difficult to do if one has perfectionistic tendencies.

The perfectionist finds it difficult to bounce back because he or she is too busy beating themselves up and re-running in their minds all the things they should have done better!  To learn and grow, we need to be free to make mistakes without fear of recrimination from ourselves and others.

To the outside world, achievers and perfectionists appear very similar, but internally, they come from a very different place, and there are very serious health consequences associated with perfectionism.   EOS is designed to optimize performance, not perfection.  Organizations through their EOS journey become extremely intentional about what one wants to accomplish, why one wants to accomplish it, and how one intends to accomplish it.  During the journey, each leader is also learning to be more intentional about optimizing their performance.  My fervent wish is that every EOS leader uses the system to learn how to move from perfectionist motivations to achievement.

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