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Should We Channel George Lucas When We Make Mistakes?

American filmmaker and entrepreneur, George Lucas, has made more continuity mistakes and factual errors per hour than any other movie director.

To be exact, he’s made an average of 64.6 mistakes per hour of his directorial efforts. That’s more than one mistake every minute. Yet he’s known for creating one of the most beloved and successful science fiction franchises in the movie industry. Does the relationship between the number of mistakes and his ultimate success tell us there’s a sweet spot somewhere between outstanding and perfect?

Let’s face it: Perfection is great until it’s not. On the positive end of the spectrum, perfectionism is an approach that helps you set the highest standards for yourself and your team, which can serve you well when collaborating and problem-solving. At the not-so-great end of the spectrum is a perspective that becomes an all-consuming, leave-everyone-in-your-wake prospect. This is the most damaging kind of perfectionism because a leader allows their tunnel vision to form a lack of trust in others.

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Granted, a Star Wars movie set is a far cry from most of our workplaces, but Lucas is tasked with very similar performance criteria as compared to CEOs of large companies. Lucas oversees the performance of two to three thousand people every day. The reality is that he can’t do it alone, so trusting the talented people around him becomes a necessity for film making.

No matter your work setting, an important question to ask yourself is where you land on the spectrum of perfectionism. If you’re moving in the direction of diminishing trust, then ask yourself two questions: one inspired by business consultant, David Swain, and one of my own.

  1. Are you hiring people from the neck down? In other words, are you hiring people only for their arms and legs? Brains need not apply? Do you tell your people the goal at hand and exactly how to go about reaching it? Or do you let them go about creatively infusing their own talents? An effective leader delegates appropriate tasks and focuses on the high-yield areas.
  2. Are you developing your people? I’ve found that professional development is a great way to keep perfectionism at bay. If you feel it’s necessary to step in for your employees to create something exceptional, ask yourself how you could change the dynamic. By investing in your team’s personal growth and onboarding, you’re less tempted to micro-manage or hoard priorities to ensure they meet the highest standards.  

Perfectionism can be your ally if you let it push you to perform and do your best. If your ally prevents you from trusting smart people you’ve hired and trained, consider creative geniuses like George Lucas who make hundreds of mistakes every hour, yet are wildly successful on a massive scale. It’s almost enough to make you a science fiction fan if you aren’t already.

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