This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

When it comes to trust-building, excellence matters. It relates to two of four fundamental dimensions of trustworthiness (under the headings “credibility” and “reliability”). There’s a catch, though, because the way you pursue that excellence might actually damage your trust-building efforts.

It all boils down to the critical difference between perfection and impeccability. As a recovering perfectionist, it seems I have to constantly re-learn the distinctions. The bottom line: one is your friend and one most definitely is not.

To test whether or not your trustworthiness is at risk, let’s envision Perfection and Impeccability as two characters in a play. Which one do you resemble most?

In physical appearance, both are well-dressed:

Perfection Impeccability
Shirt is buttoned to the top Open collar reveals a crisp, white T-shirt underneath
Sits with his back rigidly straight Assumes a relaxed yet confident stance
Drums his fingers nervously on the table-top Sits quietly and patiently

As to their personalities:

Perfection Impeccability
Determined with gritted teeth to always get it right Determined to be thorough and complete
Endeavors to never make a mess, and experiences distress when the inevitable occurs Recognizes that all humans make mistakes and chooses to see the inevitable as an opportunity to build trust.
Controlling, stressed, and perpetually uptight Focused, at ease, his sense of perspective and humor intact at all times

In terms of the company they each keep:

Perfection Impeccability
Often accompanied by Impatience, Judgment, and Frustration Hangs out with Compassion, Confidence, and Self-Acceptance

Probably the biggest difference between these two well-intended characters is what’s driving them, which is precisely where the trust problem comes in. Perfection is powered by a continuous need to satisfy something self-oriented. Impeccability, on the other hand, is other-oriented at the core; his motivation is the satisfaction that comes with being of service and making a difference.

Even Perfection agrees that Impeccability is much more pleasant to be around.

So, which character are you, most often?

Now, put yourself in your clients’ shoes. With whom would you rather spend your time?

Make It Real

This week, pay attention to your way of being in the pursuit of excellence. How often can you channel Impeccability instead of Perfection?

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Read more about what might make your “S” look big, or brush up on the variables of the trust equation in Chapter 4 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).