On Being Perfectly Imperfect

Show me where it’s written in your job description that you are expected to be perfect in everything you do. “Perfect in every way” only applies to Mary Poppins. The rest of us just have to live with the fact that we’re going to mess up.

I had a rainmaker tell me that once a mistake is made with a client, the client becomes more sensitive and is looking for your next mistake. If a second and then a third mistake is made, the client is not likely to leave a good review nor to send any referrals.

There is some truth to that. And yet, I believe it’s perfectly acceptable to make mistakes. Every single person experiences a learning curve. I don’t care who you are.

What’s not acceptable is making the same mistake over and over again. (More on that later.)

If your rainmaker expects you to be perfect from the beginning, ask them how that worked out in the beginning of their real estate career. Where did they make mistakes and what did they do to fix them? How did they feel about those mistakes and what did they do to make sure they never happened again? What can you learn from their mistakes?

You see, when you pull that information out of your rainmaker, it humanized them. They may have high standards and expectations. They should. Yet, even with those in place, mistakes will be made. How would your rainmaker prefer you handle those mistakes?

If you’re new, find out now before you make any mistakes. If you’ve been with your rainmaker for several months or even several years, you can still have the conversation.

Here’s how I handle my own mistakes:

I own it.
I’ve always inherently taken responsibility for my own mistakes. When I became a leader, I learned that I had to take responsibility for others’ mistakes as well, because as a leader, I am ultimately responsible. Owning the mistakes means I have the power to fix it or to make amends. If I blame someone else, I am powerless to fix it.

I apologize.
Depending on what the error was, I’ll decide to tell my rainmaker first so he can help me figure out a way to fix it, or I will apologize to the client first and remedy the situation with them before telling my rainmaker I made a mistake and that it’s all smoothed over with the client now.

I fix it.
There’s very little in real estate that can’t be resolved. I cling to the thought, “This can be resolved.” It has served me well. 

I analyze what went wrong.
It’s good to look back and determine if this was a simple oversight or if it’s a symptom of a deeper problem. If I had to guess, about half my mistakes were made because I was distracted or I assumed something rather than verifying it. The other half were because I needed a process or system to prevent something similar from happening in the future. (For more on this, read Upstream by Dan Heath.)

I improve the system.
If it was a system problem, I go back to my checklists and update them.

Now that we’ve addressed how to handle mistakes, let’s talk about your identity.

Have any of these thoughts occurred to you? Either consciously, or subconsciously?

If it’s not perfect, it’s worthless.

If I’m not perfect, I’m worthless.

If s/he’s not perfect, s/he’s worthless.

Ouch. It’s possible you’ve never said these exact words, but even if you’ve come close, you’re limiting yourself on what you can achieve as an administrative assistant or Ops Boss®.

These thoughts are simply not true.

It’s time to change your mind about perfect and what that means.

What if I told you, that at any given moment, we are all doing our best work? (Stay with me here.)

When you messed up or did something wrong, did you know you were doing something wrong at that moment? Heck, no you didn’t, or else you wouldn’t have made the mistake. So, in that moment, you were doing your best!

The same is true of every human being you come across. We are all doing our best in this moment. In this moment, we could be highly focused, distracted, upset, joyful, or sad. AND we are doing our best.

We are all perfectly imperfect. There is no other way to be.

If this is a concept you struggle with, go out right now and read Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. Change your thoughts and you can change your life. I promise.

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