Ask Leanne: What’s So Bad About Being Perfect?
I’ve been with my current employer for five years. I consistently receive top performance evaluations. I’m always willing to go the extra step, work weekends, and take on projects no one else wants. Yesterday, I saw that my company has posted a senior-level opportunity that I’m fully qualified for. I can’t believe that my supervisor didn’t recommend me for this position. Your advice?
-Promotable, Erie, CO
One of the biggest mistakes we make is assuming that a supervisor is focused on assessing what’s best for us, looking for new opportunities that will enable us to advance in our careers. In a busy workplace, there are many priorities, and identifying new opportunities for employees is often overlooked when there are other problems to be solved.
The good news is that there is a solution: You can choose to take ownership of your career and ask to be considered for the opportunity. But be prepared to discover that the very factors you described—working extra hours and completing projects no one else wants to do—may mean that you are seen in your workplace not as a leader, but as a reliable contributor, one your supervisor is quite happy to keep in your current role.
As an aspiring leader, you need to begin asking—asking for new opportunities and challenges. Demonstrate that you’re ready for more responsibility by taking responsibility for your career.
I used to love my job, but lately something seems to be missing. I lead 100 people, all of whom are dependent on me to make sure that we meet our goals and continue to innovate. I used to be the first in the office and the last to leave, but for the past month I’m going through the motions and waiting for the day to be over. Where has my passion gone—and how do I get it back?
-Trapped, Lawrence, KS
Many women in leadership roles experience a sense of being trapped amid success. In a society that rewards women for meeting others’ requirements rather than their own, it’s easy to lose our sense of who we are. We can become so focused on following the rules, moving forward along a prescribed path, that we forgot what brought us to that path in the first place.
Let me give you permission to take a deep breath and think about who you are, apart from a job title. What are your unique talents? What gives you energy? What brings you joy?
And one more big question: What change do you need to make to reclaim a life worth living? You can choose a life centered on meeting requirements. Or you can choose a life shaped by energy, enthusiasm, even passion.
I report to the CFO of a large corporation. When I asked her for feedback to help me understand how I’m perceived in the workplace, she said that her feedback could be summarized in two words: ‘You’re perfect.’ I’m far from perfect—and now I’m furious! What should I do?
-Unobserved, Cleveland, OH
Good for you for recognizing that “perfect” is not a desirable performance review, and for actively seeking feedback that will help you prepare for new opportunities!
My suggestion is to be very clear with your CFO about the kind of feedback that you’re requesting. One strategy is to ask for three positives and three negatives—three examples of things you did well and three areas that offer “opportunities for improvement.” This will clarify that you’re looking for more than a surface-level compliment and give your reviewer permission to be honest and specific.
You may also find it helpful to gather feedback from several people in your organization whose opinions and insights you trust, rather than simply your direct supervisor. Gathering multiple perspectives on the qualities, traits, and abilities that others find of value will enable you to see patterns that will be quite helpful as you seek to improve and develop your career.