• March 2010

Lisa McLeod Says: "Forget Perfect"

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Editor and Publisher
Be Inkandescent magazine

Atlanta-based author, leadership strategist and consultant Lisa McLeod has a new book out this month: The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small.

We’re excited about that, of course, but because this issue of Be Inkandescent celebrates the dynamic power of women, we felt compelled to write about another one of her books, Forget Perfect, which she published back in 2001.

This “oldie but goodie” made us breathe a sigh of relief all those years ago. And every time I pick it up, I continue to appreciate the wisdom she imparts. Women today, it seems, are struggling even more to balance demanding careers and motherhood with being a good wife and good daughter to aging parents.

Lisa’s advice to “Forget Perfect” sounds incredibly good. In fact, her approach to business and life has landed her clients that include Pfizer, Deloitte Consulting, Tupperware and Kimberly Clark.

After you soak up some of her ideas, we’ll tell you more about her new book below.

Be Inkandescent: You tell business leaders to Forget Perfect, but what exactly does that mean?

Lisa McLeod: Perfection is a huge problem in business. Many executives have this illusion of how things are supposed to be and when they try to fit it into reality, they can’t. So they get stuck. They stop themselves from going forward because suddenly it’s too scary to make that presentation, too scary to get into the meat of that project because they fear the outcome won’t be “perfect.”

I blame TV. It exposed us to this fake universe where everything is beautiful. Humans are comparing creatures: Raccoons rooting through the trash don’t compare themselves to each other. But too often, leaders are looking over their shoulders to see if someone else is doing a better job than they are. Their fear of messing up makes them hypercritical and as a result, they turn that criticism on the people working around and under them.

Be Inkandescent: Is that why so many executives come off as perfectionists — because they think the mark of a good leader is someone who is highly critical?

Lisa: Definitely. Too many managers think a good leader is someone who points out all the deficiencies in their subordinates. The reality, unfortunately, is that they end up creating mediocre employees. By constantly highlighting the areas workers are not skilled in, they squash their talent. Even if that approach encourages employees to improve a few of their skills, it sucks the life out of them.

A better approach is to focus on and coach employees in the things at which they excel. Not only will that make them feel better about themselves, it will inspire a renewed pride in their work. They will have more enthusiasm and in turn, that will make them want to do an even better job. By forgetting perfect, everyone actually improves.

Be Inkandescent: Can you offer a simple strategy for leaders to follow?

Lisa: The cardinal rule is that for every negative comment leaders make, they must offer five sincere compliments that are grounded in fact. If executives make that the bar and force themselves to come up with five complimentary things to say before saying something negative, it will likely take awhile before they can revert to being perfectionists.

Be Inkandescent: Why do you think leaders instinctively gravitate to the negative?

Lisa: Some do, and that’s because they let their egos get in the way. Take Donald Trump, for example. He thinks all those people in the office actually work for him. True leaders know it’s really the other way around—they work for the employees.

Be Inkandescent: In the 20-plus years you have spent working with top executives in this country, what have you found to be the characteristics that make leaders great?

Lisa: The best leaders are the ones who bring out [the best] in others. They understand their role is not more important than anyone else’s role. They see what makes each person divine, and then help develop those qualities. Of course, they are also skilled at pointing out when people are being hypocrites.

And good leaders are all around us — in business, politics and religion. They are the ones who are humble, who don’t let their egos get in the way. It’s not that they are unaware of their skills and talents. They just have such a high level of confidence in themselves that it’s easy for them to make others look good.

Learn more about Lisa McLeod’s book at www.ForgetPerfect.com.



About Lisa’s new book: The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small

“Buddha called it the Middle Path; Albert Einstein used it to reconcile competing beliefs about science and religion; and Mary Kay made it a foundation of her business and created a cosmetics empire,” explains author Lisa McLeod. “It’s the Triangle of Truth – a concept that is both old and new, and it’s the secret to solving problems everywhere from the bedroom to the boardroom and beyond.”

Drawing on wisdom from some of the world’s greatest thinkers, in this new book, published recently by Penguin Putnam, Lisa delivers a unique problem-solving model that goes beyond either/or thinking, recasting the debate on everything from sex and politics to business and religion.

Reviewers says it’s a rare blend of personal insight, business wisdom, everyday spirituality and humor — a just-in-time read for anyone who is tired of arguments, angst and stalemates and is ready for real solutions to every problem, large or small. Learn more here: www.triangleoftruth.com.

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