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Business Career, Executive Coaching Article - Perfection vs. Excellence

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"(Howard) Hughes never learned how to convert his knowledge to practical application. Instead he sought a perfection that assured failure." - From Empire: The Life, Legend and Madness of Howard Hughes by Donald L. Bartlett & James B. Steel

How many times have you heard someone (it may have been you) proclaim or complain that he/she is a perfectionist? You may have noticed that going for perfection is a fool's game. You simply cannot win when you set perfection as your standard.

There may be rare and unusual situations where perfection is assumed to be an appropriate standard. Frankly, I can't think of one - no, not even life and death situations such as heart surgery demand perfection in the process. Each stitch does not have to be sewn perfectly in order to affect the outcome. Perfection is present in the ultimate result, as evident in the patient's survival or death, not in the process.

When "perfection" is the goal it is usually out of an exaggerated desire to be right, to avoid criticism or risk. The focus is on "how am I doing?" rather than on producing a specific outcome. Excellence, on the other hand, is a way of life. It is the context in which high achievers and peak performers produce and contribute to the quality of life. High achievers and peak performers get things done by taking action looking for appropriate outcomes and measuring their success based on the quantity and quality of their results.

The bad news is that being a human being means we have the abilities and the failings of human beings. We make mistakes. We get tired. We get distracted. We fail to communicate clearly and accurately. When we set perfection as our goal, all of our actions are based on attempts to conquer our natural human limits with little or no intention on the ultimate outcome. The search for perfection limits our ability to act meaningfully.

Acting in accordance with standards of excellence allows us to produce superb results and opens the door to experimentation and creativity.

Ruth Zanes has been a Business, Career and Personal Success Coach since 1985. Her broad range of experience prior to coaching includes consultant, business ownership and corporate executive for some of the world's largest corporations. Contact Ruth at:

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