In psychotherapy we have a useful concept to take the pressure off parents who feel they need to be perfect. We say they need only to be “good enough”, and that an important way of achieving that is to create the right environment for their children to thrive.
This implies allowing themselves to have imperfections and failings while supporting their children through their rages and anxieties in order to help them cope with life’s realities. All parents have their limitations; they are not perfect.
Being “good enough” does not imply mediocrity or complacency, but rather that mistakes are an inevitable and necessary part of growth and further achievement. Perhaps businesses, especially those that are intolerant of errors, imperfections and different approaches, could learn lessons from the notion of “good enough” parenting.
With many businesses facing financial restrictions, there can be a pressure to achieve goals more quickly, resulting in people working harder and longer hours but not necessarily more efficiently. Mistakes become more likely, as does the need to cover them up.
Nigel Nicholson, professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, and author of The ‘I’ of Leadership, says organisations with an attitude of “We are the best and we are people who do wonderful things”, encourage executives to set too high expectations for themselves. He sees the problem as often self-induced by people who want to take on more because they think it will give them an advantage.
He outlines how this can lead good people to do bad things, including cheating and other deviant behaviour. “Terrible disasters have been caused by people airbrushing over mistakes they don’t want to admit. Often driven by unreasonable expectations, such as ‘We are an organisation that doesn’t make mistakes’, you are immediately encouraging people to conceal errors. In trading environments, for example, where the worst thing you can do is to conceal losses, people under pressure may hide losses, and that becomes a very slippery slope.”