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Leading From The Inside Out

Leading from the inside out means letting people see your humanness, your bad days and your imperfections. 

You may or may not remember, last month I promised to share some tips on how to ditch perfectionism and become a ‘perfect stuffer-upperer’ 😊

Here we go...

I was recently talking with a woman who was struggling with an anxious teenager.  Mrs P was immaculately dressed and groomed, her house looked like a show room and her Christmas tree was, well, ‘picture postcard perfect’. It was admirable - how she finds the time I have no idea, lol!!

Mrs P explained that her 16 yo daughter, Miss A, is paralysed with fear and she won’t do ANYTHING new.  She fears rejection, fears comparison, fears judgement, fears criticism, fears doing something wrong, being told off…. She is literally afraid of being seen! ☹

Mrs P is convinced she’s parenting perfectly as (of course) she never judges or criticises or tells her daughter off. So she’s at a loss – “what to do!!??”

Her situation wasn't dissimilar to another client, let's call her Ms X, who has problems with getting her staff to share ideas, to speak up or to admit to things going wrong.  An empty H&S record in her line of work is NOT a good sign as Ms X feels it simply means people are too scared to be honest about near misses. 

Here’s what I know to be true: kids and employees alike learn first by what you do, and only then by what you say.

Herein lies the problem: Mrs P and her life are soooo perfect that there is no room for error. And THIS is what’s being role modelled to, and absorbed by, her daughter Miss A. 

True, Miss A may not be criticised or judged by her parents, but her parents’ behaviour and attitude to life, people, places, clothes, work…sends a message loud and clear to Miss A that “if mum/dad has to do it perfectly, then I have to, too.I need to ace everything to be successful or worthy. That’s what my parents expect”.

This goes a long way to explaining why Miss A is refusing to go out, why she has super low self-confidence and why she’s anxious!

And Ms X? Same principle - it transpires that in her role as 'boss' Ms X never allows her staff to see the human side of her - the side that makes mistakes, that side that takes risks and fails (but learns) and the side that sometimes just needs to go home early.

This is not what parents or leaders do deliberately, but the impact is that children grow up believing they aren’t good enough because they might make mistakes, because they might not look as pretty, or they may not get the best results. And staff are afraid of bringing the whole of themselves to work. Because their boss doesn't.

Having anxious, withdrawn and potentially deceptive children and work colleagues is unlikely to feature on anyone's list of ambitions is it?

Now, I'm not judging Mrs P or Ms X.

They simply reminded me of a younger version of me.  I spent at least a decade trying to be perfect at parenting, have perfect kids, perfect family holiday photos and a perfect home that looked like kids didn’t live there… And being perfect at my job. Arghhh makes me exhausted to think about!

The turning point was when one of my kids showed some unhealthy attention-seeking behaviour and another would cry at the slightest remark. I became determined to Let Go of the relentless pursuit of perfectionism so that my kids will leave home knowing they’re loved for WHO THEY ARE (BTW it has done wonders for my own health too, that’s another story!).  

So I decided that I was going to start showing my kids that I don’t expect them to be perfect, by showing up as the imperfect human I am. That I expect them to take risks and stuff up (just like I did, do and will!), and that I love them ‘whatever the weather’. Still. Even If. 

It wasn’t easy and I didn’t - and don't - always get it right, but boy did I love trying to 'be the real perfectly imperfect version of me'!  Talk about liberating!

This, my friends, whether you're talking about kids or colleagues, is EXACTLY what you need to do – to allow others to feel safe that they are loved/valued for WHO THEY ARE.


Simple, but not easy: You Do You!

Here’s 3 tips that YOU can start practicing to ditch perfectionism and show up as 'you'. 

This will send a message to your child / colleague that it's ok to be imperfect, and that they’re loved / valued for the whole, completely imperfect but awesome people they are!

1. Role Model ImperfectionFor kids and colleagues to be able to learn from your bad days, you need to let them SEE those days!They must know that making mistakes is a natural part of being a human being.
So deliberately show your imperfections, so they learn you’re human just like them. This gives others breathing room, permission, to be imperfect too and sends a message: “I’m ok with who I am, I’m good enough, I don’t need to be perfect, who gets to decide what ‘perfect’ is anyway? You’re good enough too, just the way you are”.  

Imperfections exist in art, cooking, work or life in general. Failures, attempts and mistakes are the way in which all humans learn. Which mean stumbling, falling and being ‘human’ is a GREAT thing!
I know full well that it takes effort and humility to be a vulnerable role model and let down the barriers, perhaps more so at work than at home. So give yourself some space and time to practice, starting small – maybe in the kitchen at home, or in a committee (not the boardroom) at work?

2. Be Honest and Apologise

We need to talk about our mistakes.  Honestly.If you make a mistake, or break something, or forget something, admit it.
If you make a promise and forget to keep it, admit it.
If you’re running late because you were distracted by a phone call, admit it.
Let others see you owning up to your mistakes. The alternative is to have your child or colleague think that mistakes are bad, not acceptable and that “there’s something wrong with me because I make mistakes all the time, and no one else seems to, so I need to hide them”.

This attitude will not give them the confidence to be independent or thrive. And could lead to deceit and mistrust, especially if they know you’ve made a mistake and you haven’t owned up to it.

3. Give Others Space to Make Mistakes

Show them that you believe in them and set up situations where your child or colleagues can make decisions independently. Whether the decisions are good, bad or great, let they MAKE them (caveat - unless their health,safety or massive uninsurable risk or financial carnage involved).

The more they’re exposed to making decisions, the more they are practiced, and the more they learn it’s ok and the consequences are manageable. 

Resist the temptation to:hover around trying to correct things behind them.
rescue them from the consequences of their decisions (unless in your child's world it involves their safety or survival!). 
blame, make excuses, deny, or say “I told you so”.
get angry. After all, they've 'only' made a mistake.
Only YOU will know the scale of your child’s insecurities or anxiety. And only YOU will know the complexities of your team - so start small and at the right level.


It takes courage to be vulnerable and let others see that, whoa, you're not perfect after all!

So take it easy. As I've been saying, start small and be kind to yourself.

Remember the saying: those who care (about your mistakes) don't matter, and those who matter, don't care (about your mistakes).

When you're being the perfectly imperfect version of 'you' by role modelling imperfection, owning your mistakes and giving others space to make their own decisions ...

You're leading from the inside out and creating connection!
All of this means your kids and colleagues know there’s no risk to your connection with them if (when) they make mistakes, and helps them ‘get out there’ and live and learn!

Hello challenges and courage, goodbye anxiety and hiding!

Hoping this was helpful for you.  Like anything in life though, the more you practice it, the more effective it becomes. 


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