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I’ve been called a workaholic.

Initially I rejected that descriptor—of course I’m not; that would be “bad”—and then I embraced it, because, after all, work and effort and ambition are how things get done. How progress is made.

Which brings me to the ‘ick' part.

Because while I may love to work, I also want to put people first. My Why is to help people see their fundamental value, who they are, and their possibility. I want to help people reach their potential. My work is about people, people, people.

But when I look at how I structure my schedule, when I review how I conduct my meetings, how I evaluate a successful day, it’s based on my to-do list. It’s gauged on how many projects I accomplished.

Check, check, check. Projects, not people.

Why would I do that? Why would any of us?

We believe in doing something. We want to do something. We mean to do it.

And then we don't do it.

Ideally, our priorities are derived from our values. When we don’t prioritize what we want to prioritize, it’s because there’s a disconnect between the two. Maybe it's because we don’t actually value what we claim to value. More probably it's because there's an unacknowledged, maybe even unrecognized, shadow value. Something else that is important to us—so important that we unconsciously defer to it.

This all came together for me when I interviewed Hubert Joly, executive chairman of Best Buy, for this week’s podcast. Hubert reminded me of what I already know and believe but struggle to follow through on consistently—we should always prioritize people.

It reminded me of a story I related in Build an A Team. Leadership expert Henna Inam had told me that one of her former bosses, Gary Pinkowski, would always begin his conversations with her this way: How are you? How are your people? Only then would he ask, How is the business?

When Hubert introduced the word perfection (you must listen to this!) into our conversation, a piece of my personal puzzle fell into place. I’m one of those people for whom the perfect is the enemy of good.

I want to be people-oriented, and yet I am undermined by wanting to get something done, needing to get something done. Needing to do it well, perfectly even. It’s validation. Because…you know, accomplishment, progress, all that stuff. If it’s a choice between focusing on a person or getting something done, getting something done seems to be my default setting.

Perfection. Please.

Alas, perfection is hard to achieve when people are involved. People are messy, demanding and not within our control. The very thing I want to make a priority becomes an obstacle to my prioritizing it.

Here was the a-ha–––

We should ask about people first, like Gary Pinkowski––not for them––though that is a lovely gift. But also for our own good. Because when we make people our purpose, default perfectionism gets crowded out.

There’s no time like the present, no time like during a pandemic to push pause on our busy perfectionism and genuinely ask, “Really, how are you doing?”

My best,
Whitney

P.S. It's not too late to join us for the Thriving Through Disruption workshop series that starts later today. Even if you can't join us for the first call, you can sign up and watch the replay and then join us live for workshop #2 and #3. Here's the link for more information: Thriving Through Disruption

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