Progress Not Perfection

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.
— Benjamin Franklin

Consider this scenario. You are new to a team, and your leader asks you to take on your first project. You are so excited and work tirelessly to complete it. You do research, think of innovative ideas, and put your all into the project. Unfortunately, this is your first project and you don’t know what you don’t know. You find that there are a lot of variables that you could not have accounted for so you simply do your best. When you present your work to your leader, he proceeds to tear it to shreds. He points out five key things you missed and completely deflates any hope that this project will get pushed forward. After licking your wounds and throwing a personal pity party, you move past it and are ready to do better. The only problem is, for the next four months you are not handed a single project. You don’t want to be presumptuous and ask for work. To make matters worse, your leader keeps referring to your “sub par work” on multiple occasions leading you to believe you will never get another opportunity.

This scenario is fictional, but it happens in real life more than you think.

One of the traps of leadership is an output mindset instead of a growth mindset. An output mindset is driven by deliverables. If someone can’t deliver, you move on and find someone who will. This is what happened in the scenario above.

The opposite of an output mindset is a growth mindset. A growth mindset looks at a person’s potential instead of their production. If the leader in the scenario was operating in the growth mindset, he would have pointed out the flaws in the project, communicated that he understood that this was your first project, and that your work was good but not great yet. He would have made recommendations for change and asked to have the work re-submitted in a day or two.

As leaders our job is to grow people. Yes, you can have high expectations. But make sure you are helping those you lead rise to those expectations.

3 Ways to Overcome an Output Mindset:

  1. Practice empathy. Put yourself in your people’s shoes and think of ways to grow them to your expectation instead of simply expecting.

  2. Practice Check-Ins. The hard truth is people struggle to admit when they are struggling. When you ask them how things are going, you can grow them to meet your expectations.

  3. Practice a short memory. Just because someone’s work did not meet your expectations does not mean they will ALWAYS fall short. Remember that we all learn from our mistakes.


Change is hard, but as a leader you are charged to manage change for your people and manage your own change. We specialize in working with leaders going through change. Click below to see some of the ways we can help.