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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #175: Your Perfectionism is Killing Your Connections

February 17, 2022
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #175: Your Perfectionism is Killing Your Connections

Is your perfectionism killing your ability to connect with others? Today, Chris and Perry talk about the importance of authenticity and not being so perfect that no one can connect with you.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. I am Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, vice president with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome, and thank you for joining.

You want to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership, the 360 degree leadership content we teach, really any content that we are helping organizations improve or enhance their culture, develop their leaders, please visit There we have a form you can fill out and submit that, and one of our team members will follow back up with you.

Perry Holley:    Leave a comment, too. We love hearing your questions.

Chris Goede:     Leave a comment, that’s right.

Perry Holley:    We got some great questions lately.

Chris Goede:     Perry’s saying that because it helps him develop his lessons. That’s why he’s throwing that in there, so he doesn’t have to sit and brainstorm and come up with the creativity.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, think of another topic, man.

Chris Goede:     That’s right. But we know we do love to hear from you, and man, we are just so excited because week after week, our downloads and people listening are increasing. Continue to share with your friend. I know one of the things that an organization does, multiple organizations, where they actually have the team listen to the podcast, come to a team meeting and share some of their takeaways. So use this as a resource for your development personally, but also for your team’s development.

Well, today’s topic is your perfectionism is killing your connections. What you thinking here?

Perry Holley:    Well, I struggled, as a coach, with leaders when they tell me they’re really struggling connecting personally with the people on their team. Which is something we teach that you absolutely need to connect with the people on your team. They would tell me the things they were doing and trying to have a breakthrough, but there were just something that was holding them back. And I thought, well, I kept digging. With a little help from some, we do a lot of 360 degree assessments, so understanding how your people see you, your boss sees you, all around you, and I ran across input provided that said the leader did everything right. But it’s just hard to keep up with his or her standard of performance. He or she is just too perfect.

Okay. Maybe I’ve never seen this on my 360, but I have seen this. But I thought isn’t that interesting. We try so hard to look like we got it all together and it was causing a disconnect. So my question I have for you was, have you ever worked with someone that was so perfect? Go ahead.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

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Perry Holley:    No. But you couldn’t relate to them. It gets in the way of relating to people if they just see you as a…

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I think when you do that as a leader, it puts up barriers. We talk about the fact that trust is currency for leadership. And we also believe that authenticity is a trust accelerator. Let me give you one more phrase, right. That then also drives connection with your people. And so we want you to be authentic, which means, by the way, we’re not that good. I think I’ve heard John say before, “Hey, just remember, you aren’t as good as the momentum’s making you look right now. You also aren’t as bad as maybe lack of momentum is making you look right now.” So just make sure you’re really, really authentic when it comes to this.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. I’ve been reading a lot about connecting with people, reading people, understanding people, to help with some of the coaching we do. And one of the authors I read, she commented that, “We all strive to be perfect so others will like us, but we ourselves don’t really like people that come off too perfect.”

Chris Goede:     That’s right.

Perry Holley:    And then I thought, well, maybe I should add to that, that I don’t think a bunch of leaders, I know the ones I know, they’re not running around trying to be perfect.

Chris Goede:     Correct.

Perry Holley:    They’re not doing it on purpose. Many, it’s just a natural effect of wanting others to think well of me. And so I try to put my best foot forward. I try to make it look like I have the answer. I try to make it look like I’m right. It’s odd, but I thought maybe we could talk about some ways to, you used the word authenticity. I think this is where I want to go with that. Are there ways we can increase authenticity, increase our connection with our team and it’ll increase engagement, performance, and results? So I think it’s the heart of what we really want to get to is driving more engagement, better results with our team, it comes with authenticity in me.

Chris Goede:     I’ve had so many meetings with team members, with peers, with my leader to where it’s been so productive if I come in with this posture, of just being authentic and “Hey, where are we at on this?” “Oh man. It’s not good right now. This is where I’m struggling. This is where the issues are. Can we talk about it?” Versus going, “Yeah, man, I got it. I got my act together.” It’s completely not very beneficial or productive as a team or as a leader.

The other word that comes to mind, we’ve talked about this word before on this podcast is vulnerability.

Perry Holley:    Yeah.

Chris Goede:     And what I love about is that you’ve talked to us a little bit in the past about, Hey, we can either open up or armor up. Unpack that a little bit for us.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. I didn’t think you listened to me. That’s good.

Chris Goede:     I listen.

Perry Holley:    You brought that back.

Chris Goede:     I listen. You put it in my notes and told me to listen.

Perry Holley:    Right. Well, I think vulnerability is one of these words gets a bad rap. I was teaching this week. I asked everybody, “What comes to mind when you think of vulnerability?” And they say, “Weak.” And it’s just not weakness. I think if you see true vulnerability in a leader, that it’s the definition, the pure definition, of courage. That says I’m putting myself out there and I’m showing that I’m not perfect. I’m showing that I’ve got some growth left in me. And it’s really the courage… What kind of courage? Where does courage show up? It’s really the courage to be myself, the courage to admit I don’t have all the answers. I may have made a mistake. I need help. Can you show me the way?

All kinds of ways that leaders come off of being perfect by being vulnerable to say, “I’m just in the journey with you. Let’s talk about it together.” And inviting people into the conversation with you, makes you seem real. They’re saying, “Wow, he’s just like me.”

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    I think. Yeah. And I’ve heard John say that, is that when people can hear you and they go, “Me, too.” That now you’ve made a connection.

Chris Goede:     No doubt about it. And it takes courage to be able to do that. We have a course that we work with some organizations on, around courageous culture. And it’s really based off of from a safety standpoint, but it’s really taking that courage to be vulnerable with each other. And it’s amazing.

I was just talking to an individual yesterday on a phone call that owns several plants, mill working plants. And he said, “It’s amazing when our leaders have been courageous enough to be able to be vulnerable and authentic with their team members, we’re not talking about the skills of safety.” By the way, they train on the skills of safety. But the focus has been more around that from their leaders’ perspective. They’ve seen their safety numbers, incidences drop. And he’s like, “It’s amazing, but you wouldn’t think of that because we all automatically want to go right to the skillset of the safety that we’re dealing with.”

Again, another topic here that we’re talking about on today’s lesson, to help our level of authenticity, is really just becoming self-aware. I feel like we beat this kind of phrase up a little bit, but the longer you have led in your season, your career, your experience, the more unaware you are of yourself. That goes for myself, it goes for Perry, it goes for our team here in the studio. It’s just natural for us to be able to do that. That’s why we hamper it so much to make sure that we continue to be self-aware. And I think when you are, just as a reminder, I think you’ll know your strengths, you’ll know your weaknesses, the effect of other people, what that looks like. And then, we talk about it just being, what does it look like to be on the other side of your leadership?

Perry Holley:    I love the self-awareness discussion. We talk about how to improve self-awareness by getting feedback from others, maybe an inner circle, someone that can tell you the truth about you, maybe about vulnerability, we just talked about, that’s a great way to increase self-awareness. One that really struck me, that was a little odd sounding, was self reflection, the practice of self-reflection. And do you spend any time thinking through your day, what went great? What didn’t go great? What did I learn? What would I do different tomorrow? Those types of things.

What I took away from that was, the research said, if you spend time thinking about how you did today, it increases your level of compassion for others, makes you realize you’re not so perfect and it’s okay. And you become more tolerant, more understanding, more empathetic of other people’s struggles, which again is a connection builder when you do that. But move past that to say another authenticity builder was to be clear on your personal values. I know we talk about values a lot, how values drive behavior, but what are your thoughts about, living out your values, how does that help with authenticity?Chris Goede:     Well, I think when you get outside of that, you are really trying to act like or become somebody that you’re not. I’ll give you a great example. Today, we’re recording in our studio and we had our state of the union, state of the culture, address where Mark, our CEO, takes some time, and really just kind of gives us a little bit of recap, but more importantly, really kind of casts the vision of where we’re going and setting the culture. And annually, we have an award. We award the, what we call, the culture champion. And so really that’s someone who’s living out their values, both with authenticity and just being who they are.

We have a team member on our team that you’ll know who this individual is when I tell you their number one value, which is volunteerism and service. And man, when this individual is living that out, which is often, that individual is just humming. It’s just beating down the path. You can just see it. They’re comfortable in their own skin. And so they continue to stretch and to grow in that area. And I always hear about different opportunities where this individual is serving and is looking for ways to serve people. And so they have that growth mindset around that.

And I just think it’s so important to understand what your values are. Now that individual, that’s their number one value. I’m just giving that as an example, but there’s four other that we know right behind it, that they live that out as well. And so I think if you continue to have a growth mindset around your values, you know that you will have not already arrived, even though that’s a value of yours. Just be curious, continue to grow and to seek ways to grow in those values, and that’ll help you tremendously.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. The growth mindset’s a big one to me because I don’t have to act perfect, because I’m pretty open with everyone. I’m in the journey. I’m still growing and learning.

Back to that leader that I was coaching. I’ll let you wrap up here, but the thing about he was too perfect. When we started on really trying to improve his authenticity, he commented that if he was more open and vulnerable, some people in the organization would think that he was weak and that he wouldn’t be taken so seriously. Thought that was an odd response. He goes, “I appreciate what you’re saying, Perry, but I can’t do that because I won’t be taken seriously.”

I’ve been thinking about that a bit. I think my point of view on that is that I think that says more about them that does about you and that people, just my experience is that, people are attracted to authenticity. They’re attracted to your vulnerability and to your realness. And when people are attracted to you, they engage at a higher level. And I wouldn’t worry about what others think. I think if you’re being true to yourself, being true to who you are, if other people are uncomfortable with that, I think it says a lot about them, not you.

Chris Goede:     That’s well said.

Perry Holley:    And I think people are going to flock to your doorstep, knowing that you’re somebody I feel safe with. I feel included. I feel like an insider. I feel like I’m on your team because you’re a real person.

Chris Goede:     That’s awesome. I completely agree.

As I wrap up, the closing thought for me and this title that you’ve brought to us, which is your perfectionism is killing your connections, I thought back through some leaders that I’ve worked with and partnered with before, where I didn’t feel like I was getting the whole story. Didn’t feel like that was really the case. I didn’t feel like maybe I could keep up. And I go back to another illustration. He won’t mind me sharing this, but we do these 360 assessments that you were talking about. And we live out what we do for a living, which is awesome.

Our entire organization was taking these assessments throughout one of the years. And Mark Cole, who is the most passionate leader I’ve ever worked for, and sacrifices time more than anybody that I know, in one of the questions, not specific questions, but in general I’ll tell you, it was basically, hey, how sold out are you to this organization, this mission? How sacrificial maybe do you feel like? And on a scale, let’s just say one to six, he rated himself a four. And so the coach that was debriefing him challenged on him. And Mark shared this with me. And he said, “How do you think your team feels when everything that you’re doing, the pace of which you play, the travel, all these different things that you got on your plate, and you’re saying you’re a four out of six. What do you think your team feels?”

And so I give you that as just an illustration to say, it’s so important to make sure that you’re not trying to come across or be perceived as perfect or try to be perfect, because not only is it a barrier for you in authenticity being vulnerable with your team, but it’s a barrier for the accomplishments of what your team can do together because they feel like they’ve never lived up. So I think it’s a powerful thought and we’re just giving you permission, as leaders, it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay not to have all the answers and you do not need to come across that way.

Perry Holley:    I can add another one. I didn’t put it in the notes, but hearing you talk that one I learned the hard way is, this is for you parents also, is if you’re trying to be perfect for your kids, that doesn’t make a connection. I know my son tried to hide something from me because he would think that he might hurt my view of his perfection. I thought, I’m coming across perfect to my kids because well, that’s what I want them to think.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    Well, wait a minute. What if I shared my, a little vulnerable with the kids. Shared my struggles, shared my mistakes. Would they maybe learn from that-

Chris Goede:     That’s good.

Perry Holley:    and then we’d have an authentic relationship? It works at home as well.

Chris Goede:     So good.

Perry Holley:    Anyway, you can, as Chris said, you can download the learner guide for this episode at You can also leave a comment or a question for us there. We always love hearing from you. And we’re always grateful that you would spend this time with us. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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