Good Is The Enemy Of Great: How Perfectionism Is Killing Your Team

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It’s amazing that people admit to being perfectionists. To me, it’s a disorder, not unlike obsessive-compulsive disorder. And like obsessive-compulsive disorder, perfectionism messes you up. It also messes up the people around you, because perfectionists lose perspective as they get more and more mired in details.  –bnet.com

Most sports don’t require perfection from their participants, so where does this idea of being perfect come from and how can we get rid of it?  I was over at bnet.com reading a great article titled, “Perfectionism Is A Disease. Here’s How To Beat It”, when it hit me that many times our athletes are saddled with this problem and need to be freed of it.  So let’s look at how we can help our teams understand that continual improvement, not perfection, is the goal.

**Three ways to combat perfectionism on our teams**

We learn through our mistakes. “If we don’t want anyone to know we make mistakes, which is how perfectionists tend to behave, we are actually hiding our true selves.” As coaches, we’ve got to be sure to create a practice environment conducive to making mistakes.  After all, if they can’t make mistakes in practice, where can they make them?  If they’re going to get better, they’re going to have to test their limits and that will involve making mistakes.  I talk about this very thing in my post, 3 Reasons Why Making Mistakes Is Vital To Your Team’s Success.   I wonder if this is what happens to those “potential” players who never seem to be as good as advertised…

Set your sights on being a hard worker, not perfect. “A lot of times perfectionism is a way to avoid focusing on goals.”  In my post, So You Want To Be An Excellent Coach?, I talk about the theory that it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to gain expertise in a field.  What that means for our athletes is that they just need to put in the time and be committed to being good.  It means that when they’re willing to work on the skill that is lacking, time and elbow grease will reap rewards.  This perspective takes every excuse away.  There’s no more, “well, Susie is just a better athlete than me”, but rather, “Susie was just willing to work harder than me.”  And that’s not an excuse, that’s just sad.

Create a super teamy team. “Teams do better work when everyone on the team likes everyone else.” Getting along goes a long way to helping people to accept their team roles, creating great team chemistry, and smoothing out the rough edges of a season.  The cornerstones of John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success are hard work and enthusiasm and the other three blocks that make up the base are: friendship, loyalty, and cooperation.  The whole idea of the Pyramid is that the things that helped Wooden’s teams win ten national championships in twelve years are represented on the Pyramid…with the most essential items at the bottom to make up the foundation.  I wrote about it in my post, How Watching Toy Story 3 Can Teach The Essentials Of Teamwork.

Let’s all agree to battle the perfection infestation by creating coaching philosophies and environments that help our athletes get better and challenge themselves.

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