In a world of seemingly endless tasks and action-items, the ability to know when something is finally done is extremely important.  Even if you know when something is done, what do you do if someone on your team doesn’t seem to know when a task is complete?

Not knowing when something’s done relates to the problems of the “perfection paradox.”  It is all about a lack of confidence and the fear of being less than perfect.  The unconscious thinking is that if I don’t complete anything, I can’t be judged and found to be imperfect.  Sounds like a great plan, right?

This is a problem that wastes a lot of time and energy.  So, what do you do when you have someone on your team who has this particular issue?  During a one-on-one conversation, talk to the individual about their perception of their ability to make decisions.  While they may be unaware of their issue, it is even more likely that they are unaware about how to resolve it.

Through the discussion, you can simply ask the question, “How do you know when you’re done with ___?”  If they can’t tell you, then it would be a great time to coach them on identifying completion criteria which are simply the observable evidence that a decision is to be made or a task to be called complete.

Of course, another component of the issue could simply be related to confidence.  Through years and years of conditioning, they may have developed unproductive habits that have become deeply ingrained.  Bringing the issue out into the open is the first step towards its resolution.  Once the individual begins to demonstrate positive behaviors relating to completion, reinforce and encourage the individual as soon as possible.

John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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