The Tyranny of Perfectionism

Written by David Pullan

The Tyranny of Perfectionism

When I was taking my fledgling steps as a communications coach I heard a story that was doing the rounds.


A team had been rehearsing diligently to prepare the perfect pitch for a significant piece of work. If they won it would be a milestone both in terms of numbers and strategic importance. The script was written, the lines were learned, the props were in place and every possible difficult question had been rehearsed until the answer came out like a school boy conjugating Latin verbs.


On the morning of the final presentation the team arrived early in their co-ordinated shirts and gleaming Church’s shoes. With a final check of their flies they marched into the boardroom to greet the selection panel.


Firm handshakes all round belied any lingering nerves and all parties walked to their respective sides of the imposing oval table so that battle could commence.


The lead partner lowered himself into the central chair and at this point he became human.


His seat collapsed underneath him leaving 13 stone of senior executive rolling on the floor. Then his mobile phone went off sending the opening chords of Iron Maiden’s ‘Run To The Hills’ reverberating through the corridors of power. 


He muttered, ’Shall we go out and start again?’ but to no avail as the whole of the board was doubled up in laughter.


Later that afternoon the lead partner answered the phone that he had now restored to its generic Nokia ringtone to be told that he and his team had won the work.


So there you have it; humanity, vulnerability and spontaneity win out over perfectionism every time.


Now I’m not suggesting you plot this sort of stunt into your next pitch, site visit or presentation because then you would only be attempting to perfect imperfection.


What I am suggesting is that you relax a little. Use what happens and make it your own.


Know your messages but allow some spontaneity in the way you deliver them. Embrace the unexpected and see it as a gift. Be the real you.


So many clients come along saying that they are worried that they Um and Err too much. But this is spoken communication. We repeat ourselves. We use colloquial language. We um, we err and it’s divine.


All I can say is allow yourself to be human and don’t try to be perfect because perfect is weird.


You never know, the humanity you display might just change your life.






photo credit: <a href="">Some people say I am obsessed with my lawn</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>


  • W B Yeats

    'Think like a wise man, but communicate in the language of the people.'