Standards are undoubtedly great to have for good business performance. They provide us with guidance and something to aspire to. But setting too high standards can work against us, counter intuitive as this may seem.
Here are four of the downsides I have witnessed to possessing very high standards and the impact they can have on business performance:
Sometimes we can become so blinded by our own high standards that we neglect other, very important factors in our projects, businesses and lives in general. We end up cultivating tunnel vision. We won’t rest, celebrate or reflect until our high standards are realised. People around us can become frightened by such behaviour and may choose to work elsewhere.
Alienation and restriction
We can often pass up extraordinary opportunities just because our initial judgement declared a particular opportunity as not being up to par. When this happens often enough, we end up living in our own little worlds with our own rules. We slowly become isolated from reality and our business performance suffers. Keeping your options open gets interpreted as compromising on standards, by those who defend them too staunchly. It is always better to reserve judgement just in case there’s been an error with the “initial screening”.
Never feeling satisfied or fulfilled
It’s quite difficult to feel satisfied or fulfilled when the set standards are so far out of reach. For some people they can even become moving targets! This empty or hollow feeling can stick around for a long time and lead to a not-so-healthy psychological state (yes, I’m talking about depression). And is it really worth it? Why put yourself through so much pain when a few notches down the standards hierarchy will suffice?
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Procrastination and delay
If everything has to be perfect before it can be officially released or shown to anybody then it’s no surprise that deadlines aren’t met or things in general are held up. This behaviour can sabotage projects for reasons not immediately obvious to clients or colleagues, even if you are in charge of the project. Sometimes it comes down to the wire and the trade off is: perfection versus missing the project deadline. Perfectionists are blinded to the fact that missing the project deadline has much larger implications.
The thing about standards is that they often exist in our minds only. Others respect them up to a point but once we cross that , we’re venturing into territory that we’re best to keep away from.
So should you drop those pesky standards? Well, if you and those close to you or around you consider them as being slightly too high, then yes, consider revising them. Have standards that are realistic but still stretch you.
What usually succeeds in the marketplace is not the most perfect product anyway. It’s the most appropriate product. And that is a completely different ball game with completely different rules. All our work efforts should satisfy the rules associated with the most appropriate product before we get carried away with the idea of perfecting it.