The Mid-Career GPS Podcast

244: Breaking Free from Workplace Perfectionism with Vitale Hardin

May 14, 2024 John Neral Season 4
244: Breaking Free from Workplace Perfectionism with Vitale Hardin
The Mid-Career GPS Podcast
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The Mid-Career GPS Podcast
244: Breaking Free from Workplace Perfectionism with Vitale Hardin
May 14, 2024 Season 4
John Neral

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Join us in this episode of The Mid-Career GPS as we dive deep into the pervasive issue of perfectionism in the workplace. Our guest, Vitale Hardin, a seasoned expert in leadership and overcoming perfectionism, sheds light on why so many of us find ourselves trapped in the pursuit of unattainable ideals.

Discover the detrimental effects of perfectionism on your career trajectory and personal well-being. From the constant pressure to achieve flawlessness to the fear of failure and rejection, we explore how perfectionism undermines professional growth and erodes self-worth.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Hardin offers invaluable insights and practical strategies for breaking free from the perfectionism trap. Learn how to shift from seeking external validation to embracing your inherent value and leading with authenticity. Gain the tools to cultivate resilience, improve communication, and foster a workplace culture that prioritizes effectiveness over fear and control.

If you're a mid-career professional striving to navigate the complexities of the modern workplace while maintaining your sanity and sense of self, this episode is for you. Tune in as we equip you with the mindset and skills needed to thrive in today's competitive landscape and chart your course to success with confidence and authenticity.

Connect with Vitale Hardin

Website | LinkedIn | Book

Support the Show.

Thank you for listening to The Mid-Career GPS Podcast.
Please leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts here.

Visit https://johnneral.com to join The Mid-Career GPS Newsletter, a free, twice-weekly career and leadership resource for mid-career professionals.

Connect with John on LinkedIn here.
Follow John on Instagram @johnneralcoaching.
Subscribe to John's YouTube Channel here.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Join us in this episode of The Mid-Career GPS as we dive deep into the pervasive issue of perfectionism in the workplace. Our guest, Vitale Hardin, a seasoned expert in leadership and overcoming perfectionism, sheds light on why so many of us find ourselves trapped in the pursuit of unattainable ideals.

Discover the detrimental effects of perfectionism on your career trajectory and personal well-being. From the constant pressure to achieve flawlessness to the fear of failure and rejection, we explore how perfectionism undermines professional growth and erodes self-worth.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Hardin offers invaluable insights and practical strategies for breaking free from the perfectionism trap. Learn how to shift from seeking external validation to embracing your inherent value and leading with authenticity. Gain the tools to cultivate resilience, improve communication, and foster a workplace culture that prioritizes effectiveness over fear and control.

If you're a mid-career professional striving to navigate the complexities of the modern workplace while maintaining your sanity and sense of self, this episode is for you. Tune in as we equip you with the mindset and skills needed to thrive in today's competitive landscape and chart your course to success with confidence and authenticity.

Connect with Vitale Hardin

Website | LinkedIn | Book

Support the Show.

Thank you for listening to The Mid-Career GPS Podcast.
Please leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts here.

Visit https://johnneral.com to join The Mid-Career GPS Newsletter, a free, twice-weekly career and leadership resource for mid-career professionals.

Connect with John on LinkedIn here.
Follow John on Instagram @johnneralcoaching.
Subscribe to John's YouTube Channel here.

John Neral:

Today, my guest and I will talk to you about perfectionism and how it's impacting your work and career trajectory. So let me ask you why are you striving to be perfect? Come on, is perfection even obtainable? Yet so many of us, and myself included, have dealt with, faced and, at times, battle, perfectionism. According to my guest, perfectionism is something we do for love instead of from love, and that impacts how we show up at work, for our companies, our team members and for ourselves. Today, I am joined by Vitale Hardin, a leading expert in perfectionism and how it permeates corporate culture and individual performance. Join us as we discuss how perfectionism is impacting your career, how organizations are profiting from it and how you can shift from perfectionism to resilience as you build your mid-career GPS. Let's get started. Hello, my friends, this is the Mid-Career GPS Podcast and I'm your host, John Neral. I help mid-career professionals like you find a job they love, or love the job they have, using my proven four-step formula. My guest today is Vitaly Buford Hardin, and she is the president and CEO of the Hardin Group.

John Neral:

Vitale works with organizations and leaders to transform perfectionism into excellence. She has served clients including Keeneland, Humana, NCAA, Zappos, Lifepoint Health, Logan Aluminum and the University of Kentucky, with a focus on leadership and overcoming perfectionism. Having led two university studies focused on perfectionism in the workplace, Vitale is a true pioneer of thought leadership in this space. This study revealed that 85% of workplaces have cultures of perfectionism and 86% of leaders in these workplaces see their work affected by perfectionism, further solidifying perfectionism as a crucial topic to be addressed in every work environment. Throughout Vitale's life, she has overcome struggles with perfectionism and addiction, which propelled her to become a published author, nationally recognized speaker and IPEC-certified executive coach. She brings 15 years of corporate experience to custom training, strategic advisory, culture change initiatives and performance coaching, and it's Vitale's proprietary program that equips her clients with the tools to turn the volume down on perfectionism and learn to lead with authenticity and excellence, build resistance, improve communication and emotional intelligence.

John Neral:

In her personal life, Vitale is a committed mother and wife. She adopted her nephew when he was five years old, becoming a single mother nearly seven years ago. She married her best friend, stan Harden, in 2021 and gave birth to their son, lowell, in the summer of 2023. If you or someone you know is a perfectionist or dealing with perfectionism, I guarantee you this is going to be a conversation you are going to want to listen to and hopefully share. So it is my pleasure to introduce you to Vitaly Hardin. Hey there, vitaly. Welcome to the podcast. It's great to have you here today.

Vitale Hardin:

Yes, thank you for having me, John.

John Neral:

Welcome to the podcast. It's great to have you here today. Yes, thank you for having me, john. Yeah, it's always great to connect with a fellow IPEC coach and to share some of your work and everything that's going on. But, vitaly, before we get into all of this great stuff, we're going to talk today about perfectionism. Please share with us what was your mid-career moment?

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah, so my mid-career moment was also a mid-life moment for me that forever changed the trajectory of my life, and so if I'm going to show up authentically today on our call, John, for me it was when I got sober 10 years ago.

John Neral:

Yeah, thank you for sharing that, and it's one of those things where and I haven't talked a lot about this on the podcast either, but one of my first jobs out of college was working in alcohol rehabilitation, okay, and I remember that whole process of working with people in that and everything. And when you talk about how to show up authentically, it is something that we do one day at a time.

Vitale Hardin:

One day at a time, for sure.

John Neral:

So thank you for sharing that with us. Yeah Well, vitaly, your work and what brings you to our conversation today is about perfectionism, yes, and how it shows up for leaders and organizations. Let's ground this conversation right off from the start. Define for us what is perfectionism.

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah, so perfectionism is when you are hustling for your self-worth. Another way of thinking of it is when we do things for love instead of from love. It's also when we outsource our self-worth, our intuition and our decision-making to people, places and things outside of ourselves. So it's when we let what our self-worth is externally defined.

John Neral:

So I've not heard perfectionism defined in those three components as clearly and explicitly as you just did. So first of all, thank you for that. Secondly, let's unpack this a little bit. So what does hustling for your self-worth actually look like?

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah. So what it looks like is constantly people-pleasing right, I need you to be happy, for me to be happy. So again, we're hustling for our self-worth. If I can make this person happy, if this person can approve of my decision making in the workplace or my choices, then I'm worthy. It's when we avoid things. So we avoid difficult conversations within the workplace or even outside of the workplace. So again we're hustling Like if I avoid this, then I won't upset someone and they won't dislike me. So again, we're doing all of these things instead of just realizing that we are worthy as we are. There's actually nothing we have to do.

John Neral:

So when people are listening to this and they're thinking about upsetting people in the workplace, what comes to mind for me is saying no. Yes, I don't have the time to do this project. I don't have the bandwidth to take this extra project on. From your research, what have you seen kind of happens in those moments when people aren't willing to say no, and kind of dig even deeper into this perfectionism mindset?

Vitale Hardin:

Well, perfectionism most definitely leads to burnout. It leads to us really struggling in the workplace as leaders, most definitely overcommitting. One of the examples I give, as it relates to saying no, is that as perfectionists, we commit to people people pleasing deadlines instead of realistic deadlines. And so what I mean by that is, you know, we're in a meeting and they're like oh, vitaly, when can you get that to us by? And I'm like oh, I can get it to you tomorrow. End of day. And inside I'm dying because I've got five other projects and priorities that are due tomorrow, which means I'm going to have to pull an all-nighter, probably push one of those other priorities aside, when I simply could have just paused and say hey, realistically I can get that to you next week. If you need it earlier, let me know what I need to shift. But we don't want to appear that we can't handle it all, so we just start saying yes, and then that's the burnout, the obsessive thinking, the overwhelm, the chronic stress.

John Neral:

Okay, so that when you said people pleasing deadline, my eyes just lit up because, yeah, I can think of so many times in my career where I've done that. I can think about my clients who struggle with this as well. So what? What's going on internally where there's that need to just people please, and that cycle repeats over and over and over again.

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah, we people please, because we think that our self-worth depends on other people's approval. So if I commit to this, you're going to think I'm superhuman, you're going to approve of me and that makes me worthy. So, again, you're outsourcing your self-worth and your approval and your validation instead of looking internally for it.

John Neral:

And fair enough to say. I mean, for the most part, we all want to be liked, but we don't want to be liked to the point where we're running ourselves into the ground either.

Vitale Hardin:

Right, and you can be liked with boundaries, yep. So I think, even just first admitting like you know I do I have a desire to be liked and being okay with that. I think for me I struggled with that for so long. I was like I wish I could just be okay, not being liked and saying no and not needing to make everyone happy. But again, like you said, it's an inherent human need.

John Neral:

Yeah, A few minutes ago, when you were sharing your definition of perfectionism, you shared something with the word love. It was like love it. Can you repeat that again for me please?

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah, so perfectionism is when we do things for love instead of from love.

John Neral:

All right, tell me more about that, please.

Vitale Hardin:

So we could take the same example with the you know the people pleasing deadlines. You say yes to that people pleasing deadline or you overcommit yourself because you're doing it for love, right Again, part of that outsourcing from love. So the opposite of perfectionism would be saying hey again, realistically, like I can get that to you next week, but if you need it earlier, let's have a conversation about it.

John Neral:

So it's really about setting those boundaries that everybody gets what they need. Right, right, okay, yeah. So now let's think about this mid-level leader their first time or newly crowned manager leader. They're new to an organization, new to a role. How do you help people not get sucked into this perfectionism? I'm going to say trap right, not get sucked into that where their leadership and their overall workflow suffers because of it.

Vitale Hardin:

Right. So I think it's getting really clear around your boundaries and how you and how you want your life to look like truly, and being okay with that and so making sure you're communicating that to the people that you, to the leader that you're going to be reporting to. So, I think, getting really clear on your own. So, for example, I just hired a new person on my team and literally during the interview process she asked me she goes do you send emails after hours? She's like, because I'm in a stage of life where it's really important for me to be able to shut off after work, and I appreciated the courage it took for her to be brave and say I'm not doing emails after a certain number of hours, and so that is a way that you would do that.

John Neral:

It's a great example and I love that word courage because so often we're of this mindset and mentality that we need to be on 24-7. Right, and to set those boundaries, to say, look, I'm going to be here for you, but I'm only here for you during these working hours. Right, there's been something. I'm not on Instagram in the sense of, like, I do a lot of business work on there, right, but it's a great buffer and I do enjoy it because you know, dog videos and cat videos are wonderful. But there was something going around where it was this exchange between a manager and an employee about. You know well, you only log on from nine to five and it's expected you need to log on at eight and then, like the long story short of it is, is that the employee looks at the manager and says, well, if you would like me to help you kind of manage your time a little bit better and show you how you can get some time back during your day, I'm happy to do that between the hours of nine and five.

Vitale Hardin:

Right, Right. I saw that I was like good one.

John Neral:

Yeah, it kind of like makes you stop and think about that. You do a lot of work Vitaly with organizations and helping them improve their corporate culture, and a lot of your work stems from this recognition and acknowledgement that perfectionism exists in the workplace. In fact, through your research, you have stated that 86% of leaders think that workplace perfectionism is impacting their ability to get their work done.

Vitale Hardin:

Right.

John Neral:

Right, their work done Right, Right. So why? Why are companies so entrenched in this perfectionism? Culture? How did we get?

Vitale Hardin:

how did we get here. So I think that you know companies for a long time profited off of it, historically right, overworking people. But I would say that COVID was a reckoning on people's lives and people being like no, I actually want to live my life and also work, and so I think we're just in a new age of the workplace where people have different expectations for their life and how they want to live. So I just think you know we're not in the 1900s anymore, and so work looks differently.

John Neral:

So here we are, more than four years after the start of the pandemic. What are some of the things you're seeing that companies are essentially struggling with when it comes to employees setting boundaries for work and time after hours and things like that? Talk to us a little bit about what you're seeing companies are struggling with there.

Vitale Hardin:

I think companies what I'm seeing is companies are struggling with trust in the workplace and how to tangibly build trust right. So this idea you know psychological safety and the you know this is a hot button topic right now and also a really important topic is to have high performing teams. You have to have a, you know, a culture of psychological safety and trust. So I think building trust because it can seem such like an abstract topic is really really important. Internal communication is something that's really important that people are lacking and, again, impacts trust. Equipping people to be the good receivers and givers of feedback is an issue that I see companies struggling with. And then I think performance management on the whole is something that companies are struggling with, and I'm not talking about a performance management system. Companies have them right Reminders to say when you need to have the conversation, but the conversations between the conversations aren't happening. The specific practical tools of what to do to improve your skill sets aren't happening, and so, again, growth on the whole is stalled.

John Neral:

Hey there, we'll get back to the episode in a moment, but I want to give you something game-changing, a golden ticket. That is like having a roadmap to take you from career confusion to clarity in minutes, introducing the Mid-Career Job Seekers Checklist. It is your secret weapon in your job search and if you feel like navigating your job search right now is like navigating a maze blindfolded, don't worry, my friend, I got your back. This checklist is a powerhouse of organization and preparation, crafted to make you say goodbye to feeling overwhelmed and hello to a career transition made easy. I want you to head on over to https://johnneral. com to snag your free copy of the Mid-Career Job Seekers Checklist. It's not just a checklist, it is a career compass to help you find that job you're going to love. Now let's dive back into the episode. Are you seeing companies struggle with what returning to the workplace is looking like right now?

Vitale Hardin:

I think that I don't know if that's as big of an issue. I think it's easier to put the blame on that.

John Neral:

Okay.

Vitale Hardin:

But I actually don't think that that is the issue, like, yes, there are the issues of hybrid and should we return to work? And people getting used to their home office and not wanting to return the office, but I think the bigger issue is tangibly creating cultures of trust.

John Neral:

So how does a new leader create that sense of trust, whether they're new to leadership in general at this point in stage in their career, or they're new to an organization where their personal values and philosophy around how to build trust may be different than what the corporate norm is in that organization?

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah. So I think first, first looking at, like, how you show up as a leader, that exhibits trust. So what am I doing as a leader in my career? That's trustworthy right. Am I like, for example, the deadlines that you commit to? Are they deadlines you're able to hold and uphold, or are we over committing? So I think some of those things are really important.

Vitale Hardin:

So it's really looking first at yourself what am I doing and then looking at how you're building relationships within the workplace, because relationships are the currency in which we get things done.

John Neral:

Yeah, so, so well said, there was something in our pre-call that we talked about and you had mentioned that it is impossible to have psychologically safe organizations and a perfectionism workplace. Yeah, yeah. Why is that impossible?

Vitale Hardin:

Because you know psychological safety allows you to admit that you have you made a mistake. Admit that you made a failure. Perfectionist workplaces say you can't make a mistake, you have to be perfect. Don't admit that mistake, right. Psychologically safe environment say hey, ask for help If you need it. Perfectionist environment say you don't need to ask for help. Overcommit to that. Say yes, say you can handle it all. Say yes to that unrealistic deadline, even though you've got 10 projects happening at the same time. So there's just so many differences. And so if psychological safety is the number one indicator of a high performance team and high performance culture, and it can't coexist with perfectionism, you might want to look at your perfectionism problem.

John Neral:

It's a really good point to that. Do you often find that you see companies sharing both messages? They're like, oh, we're psychologically safe, but at the same time we need you to be high-performing and not make a mistake. Do you ever see those messages kind of counterbalancing or counterattacking each other?

Vitale Hardin:

Right. So I would say so. My research shows that 85% of workplaces have cultures of perfectionism and I honestly don't believe that workplaces do that by intention. I mean, there are some, but the majority of that 85% it's by default because they haven't done anything different. But yes, most definitely it's like oh, we want you to have work-life boundaries and I'm going to email you at 9 PM. What? Those things are counterintuitive, yeah.

John Neral:

I will never forget. I had worked for a previous organization and it was an organization where you were expected to be on your and I'm going to use a very dated term on my Blackberry during Christmas Eve mass because I was having to put out a fire about a story that was coming out. Does that make me a bad person? And I looked at them and I said, well, you had to do what you had to do and that was a choice in the moment, given the circumstances, the fact you were on your BlackBerry during church. You need to take that up with Jesus.

John Neral:

Yeah spoke volumes about the pressure to be on to make sure branding and image and perceptions were as optimal as they could be. And you could you know you could could never show that flaw whatsoever and I remember how much it aided all of us being in that environment.

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah, most definitely.

John Neral:

Yeah, something else. You said that you can't have perfectionism and resilience, right? Oh, I need to know more. Tell us more about that, please.

Vitale Hardin:

So resilience is our ability to obviously adapt, to change, be flexible, move like water, flow more, and perfectionism is rooted in fear and control. Right Resilience is more openness and being open to change and being adaptive, and so that's really why you can't have both. I mean, when I'm in perfectionism mode and I want something to go a certain way, when there's a change in plans, I mean I get frustrated, it sidelines me, and so that's why you can't have those two things.

John Neral:

Is it possible for effective leaders and mid-career professionals to be a perfectionist at certain times?

Vitale Hardin:

So I would reframe the whole way of thinking, like I don't even think we need to say, oh well, you have to be perfect at this. I think you need to say, like, some things require accuracy, some things require a hundred percent. So I think even just changing our terminology around it is really, really important, because we don't want to be leaders of perfectionism, we want to be leaders of excellence, which doesn't mean that work quality or work product fails or is harmed. It means that we drop the obsessive thinking, the anxiety, the stress, the overwhelm, the fear that comes with perfectionism and imagine how much more energy we would have to give and serve in our lives.

John Neral:

Yeah. So it goes without saying and without question, you've done tremendous amount of research in this space. Where do you see your research taking you next in this area of perfectionism?

Vitale Hardin:

What I'm most excited about is starting to do a lot of true culture change. So I do a lot of the leader training and development and all of that stuff is wonderful, but if I'm not able to do look at the cultural norms that exist and and really assess those conditions, then the change isn't permanent and, honestly, your, your people, will probably end up leaving your people will probably end up leaving, right, true, yeah, absolutely.

John Neral:

And so the kinds of people and organizations you work with. Can you tell us a little more specifically about who the people you help on a day-to-day basis?

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah, so it really varies. I, you know, I've managers and people leaders I work with. I also work with individual contributors. I've also worked with a C-suite. So this message it impacts everyone, it just depends it shows up differently based on the season of your life. Perfectionism looks differently for an individual contributor versus a people leader.

John Neral:

All right, so so here's. Here's the question that just popped into my head. It's not on my sheet, it's not in my notebook, it is not something I prepared, but I'm sitting here and I'm thinking of you and your story and your research and thinking about how you are out there actively dispelling why perfectionism is just the wrong mindset to have. So I'm going to ask you to brag here for a second. But how awesome of a mom are you?

Vitale Hardin:

Oh well, I love being a mom, but there's always room for improvement, john, but I I love being a mom, yeah.

John Neral:

I mean I'm just yeah, no, I'm just I'm just putting that out there because, like you know, when you for someone like me too, I'm very grateful of how I was brought up and raised and everything, but there were very high expectations and I'm grateful for them and at the same time I'm like, yeah, okay, here you go. But I mean I would imagine that your research has certainly had a big impact on you personally, as well as for your family too, right?

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah, and I tell people because when I'm doing these trainings, I mean we cover things other than just the workplace. I mean obviously it spans our personal lives and so many people are parents and they're like oh my gosh, my child is a perfectionist now because of me. And I just, I believe, like you heal yourself, you heal your children, like really all you've got to do is the work on yourself to overcome your perfectionism and they pick up on it.

John Neral:

Yeah, ah, that's so nice to hear. Absolutely Well, Vitaly, as we start wrapping up here. What advice? Because we've covered a lot of things today. Right, but what advice would you give someone, especially a mid-career, mid-level leader? What advice would you give them to help them build their mid-career GPS?

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah. So my biggest piece of advice is allow yourself to evolve, right, you don't need to have it all figured out today. I mean, you can have ideas of what you want to do. Maybe you want to be a CFO someday or a people leader at a certain organization but just allow yourself to evolve. Allow your experience and the projects that come in front of you to also guide you. As perfectionists, we can need so many things to go a certain way, and so, for me, it's just encouraging people to allow themselves and their experience and their life paths to evolve.

John Neral:

I love that. Thank you for sharing that with us. Well, this has been a wonderful conversation. I know my listeners have taken a lot away from this, but if they want to know more about you, connect with you, find you, get your book, all those kinds of great things, I'm going to turn the mic over to you. Share us all the good places where people can connect with you.

Vitale Hardin:

Yeah, so you can always connect with me on LinkedIn. It's Vitaly Buford Harden. There's not a whole lot of Vitaly's running around, so I shouldn't be too difficult to find. My book is my first book is Addicted to Perfect, and you can find it on Amazon. And then also I'm on Instagram and my website is thehardengroupco. So co, nice.

John Neral:

I will make sure all of that are in the show notes. But, vitaly Hardin, thank you so much for being a great guest on the Mid-Career GPS podcast.

Vitale Hardin:

Thank, you, john, I appreciate it.

John Neral:

All right, my friends. Well, look, if there's one big takeaway from this conversation with Vitaly today, it goes right back to the beginning of the episode, where she defined perfectionism as when we're hustling for our self-worth. So your challenge this week is to really think about where you find yourself trying to be perfect in your work, in your life, and where do you see yourself trying to hustle for your self-worth. Are you setting clear and more reasonable boundaries on things at work where you're stopping yourself from showing up, from a place of people pleasing? And, lastly, taking a look at your organizational culture as well. And while you may not be able to change everything within that company all at once, we know, as mid-career professionals, you are responsible for the teams you lead. We know, as mid-career professionals, you are responsible for the teams you lead, the projects you lead, the people whom you interact with every day, and how are you able to create a more psychologically safe workplace for everybody you come in contact with day in and day out? That's your takeaway for today's episode and until next time, my friends, remember this you will build your mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day.

John Neral:

Thank you for listening to the Mid-Career GPS Podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and, if you have a moment, I'd love to hear your comments on Apple Podcasts. Visit JohnNarrowcom for more information about how I can help you build your mid-career GPS or how I can help you and your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event. Don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at John Narrow Coaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters. Thank you.

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