As a coach, there's a wide range of personalities that you'll run into, and one of them would be the perfectionist. They may not necessarily be perfectionists, but they think they are and have convinced themselves that their opinions are right.
As their coach, you must deal with their self-identification, but also use it to help them achieve their goals. Sometimes, these situations can be volatile, and the coach must be careful when making suggestions.
Here, 13 members of Forbes Coaches Council examine the most effective techniques for supporting a client that self-identifies as a “perfectionist” to get them to meet their goals.
1. Clarify What That Label Means To Them
Support by unpacking and clarifying what that label means to the client as "perfectionist" rarely means the same for everyone. Uncovering the source of the label often gives rise to surprising realities of why a coachee pushes the boundary toward their perfection. From there, create a safe environment through which the coach reframes the term in a growth mindset manner to tackle goals ahead. - Arthi Rabikrisson, Prerna Advisory
2. Provide Positive Reinforcement
Perfectionism can originate from low self-confidence. People with low self-confidence often try to control their environment and can be quite hard on themselves and others. It may appear that they don’t need much support but it is actually the opposite. Be sure to provide lots of positive reinforcement because perfectionists can be sensitive. They are easy to work with as they work hard. - Dr. Remi Duyile, RemiSpeaks
3. Coach The Client, Not The ‘Problem’
Although perfectionism is often presented as a virtue, it's more likely the voice of an "inner critic" and a protective quality designed to keep the client safe from criticism. As a coach, I need to be careful not to get hooked by the perfectionist voice and find myself coaching the "problem" rather than the client. - Julie Colbrese, Hot Coffee Coaching
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.
4. Pair Them With A Recovering Perfectionist
You need to pair that person with a recovering perfectionist at the earliest date possible. Perfectionists will not listen to your reason or be moved by your emotional intelligence. The recovering perfectionist can detail how their adherence to this unrealistic and out-of-touch mindset can lead you to years of losing opportunities. Don't worry. There are plenty of us recovering to go around. - John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.
5. Consider The Cost And Payoff
Perfectionism means something different to everyone. I would first ask what it means to the client and ask clarifying questions. Everything has a cost and payoff — we would look at the cost and payoff of being a perfectionist. From there, we would look at what is possible to continue and what is not sustainable. The next step is to co-create a plan that is detailed and possible to accomplish. - Tracy Quinton, Quinton Group
6. Help Them Find Their Internal Power
A perfectionist lives in a state of disempowerment; disempowerment that comes from within. This means that you need to help them discover their internal power. Use facilitative coaching. Coach toward emotional awareness. Perfectionists need to rewire their brains. To be aware of their negative self-talk, help them reach for new language. A daily mantra can help. - Lital Marom, UNFOLD Media Group
7. Show Them What ‘Good Enough’ Means
Help them consider some risk-taking activity, think about what "good" looks like and then consider one way to step outside their comfort zone — then reflect on the opportunity. People are motivated differently, so helping them see how to "get it done" or "get it good enough" may be freeing instead of trying to labor over the work or activity. Quality is good, but perfectionism can be limiting, too. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason
8. Help Them Strive For Excellence
Being perfect in all aspects of our life is an unattainable goal. If, for example, we are "perfect" at work, very often other areas of our life begin to become very imperfect. And, although we may miss perfection, we may very likely hit excellence. I would be most concerned with how balanced their life is, then how perfect their life is. Excellence is a far better target than perfection. - Beth Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald Coaching and Consulting
9. Focus On The Real End Goal
Focusing on perfectionism means we're not focusing on the real goal. Even when perfectionism is attained there's always something else to edit and or change to make it better. Perfectionism brings us closer to our need to satisfy something going on internally than it does with accomplishing the goal. Focus on the end goal, and being able to iterate when the process needs to change. - Brooks Scott, Merging Path Coaching
10. Discuss Fixed Versus Growth Mindset
One of the most empowering concepts for a self-identified perfectionist to understand is the distinction between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In order to help this client shift out of a fixed mentality, we would practice intentionally performing tasks with a focus on learning, novelty and willingness to fail. Despite the initial discomfort, this would prove immensely beneficial overall. - Jenna Valovic, Jenna Leah Coaching
11. Determine What They're Afraid Of
The biggest question I have when someone calls themself a perfectionist is "what are you afraid of?" Perfection comes from a place of uncertainty, and the need to be right. If a client is afraid of success, then they often work to perfection. If a client is fearful of failure, they work to perfection. Why? Because perfection is unattainable. Find the fear, remove the perfectionism. - Kate Peters, Bright Voyage Leadership
12. Find The Ideal Amount Of Success Indicators
Guide them to identify an ideal amount of success indicators. Perfectionists have long lists of success markers that get in the way of their goals. That creates a "never-enough" state that keeps them from experiencing the joy of smaller successes and that lovely "it's good enough" feeling. Help them cultivate self-compassion and identify success markers that are attainable and meaningful to them. - Mari Carmen Pizarro, Whole Leadership Systems
13. Practice Agile Perfectionism
There is nothing wrong with being a perfectionist! What is wrong with perfectionism is your behaviors, which are controllable. Become self-aware of how you react when something isn't perfect and how long it takes you to complete things because they have to be perfect. Then learn to self-manage your behaviors to this. Practice "agile perfectionism." - John Knotts, Crosscutter Enterprises
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