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Perfection: How L&D Pros Can Let Go of It and Simply Be Themselves

12 July 2021

5 Min Read


Learning and development professionals could all use a little reminder that perfection is unrealistic and that they can feel comfortable exposing their human side at work.

When employees look at learning and development professionals, they may think of us as superhuman in a way. Perhaps not on the level of Superman, but they may assume L&D professionals have all the answers and don’t make mistakes. This just isn’t true, though.

Learners are not really expecting perfection. Neither are the companies themselves; yet, L&D professionals can fall into the trap of overanalyzing everything they do. All that does is create a tremendous amount of pressure.

In this episode of The Learning Xchange, Matthew Brown, Schoox’s VP of Learning and Brand Success, discusses how to be your authentic self as an L&D professional and why it’s okay to not be perfect.

To learn more, keep reading or press play on the podcast below:

The truth about perfection

The truth about perfection is that it’s OK to not be perfect. There are some scenarios in the world where perfection is important, for example, performing surgery, but for the most part, perfection isn’t essential.

In fact, it’s in our imperfections that we really display our humanity. And in our humanity is where we become much more approachable and personable. This is key to developing deep, trusting relationships.

This isn’t just about L&D professionals either. It’s crucial that we help employees feel able to be authentic at work.

To do this, learning and development professionals can show their true colors and show learners and employees that it’s okay to do so. There may, of course, be some restrictions on that. For example, turning your hair blue in a customer-facing role. But there are other ways to work around that and still bring your authentic self to the workplace.

You can do this in a number of ways. It’s all about finding what works for you, but here are some ideas:

1. Bring things you love into the office

The trick here is not to overthink it too much. It could be as simple as bringing in a picture, figurines, or colorful office equipment. If you’re primarily a remote worker, think about placing things in the background that reflect your personality on Zoom calls. This could be pictures on the wall, ornaments, trinkets, etc. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, just small hints of your personality will do.

2. Show off your sense of humor

We could all use a bit more fun and humor in the office. A lot of people, especially in corporate environments, are afraid to show their sense of humor. However, making an effort here can help to reveal the real you.

3. Tap into empathy and compassion

When delivering learning sessions, try to make an effort to emphasize the content you’re delivering with things like personal anecdotes and humor to really lighten the conversation.

For example, if you’re going through slides, don’t be afraid to inject a little personality, color, jokes, or even memes to keep people engaged and also show your learners that you’re human too.

4. Be an open book

When sharing anecdotes and stories, don’t be afraid to talk about the not-so-glamorous stories. Mention the mistakes and failures as well as the successes. This highlights that you’re not perfect, and no one else is either.  This can really open up the topic and help people feel understood and supported.

Don’t wait for perfection

A lot of us put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, but this can cause problems. A common example of this is not asking for help when we really should because we don’t want to appear incapable. This causes all sorts of problems down the line when you end up really needing help later.

If you’d have opened the conversation earlier, got some help, some feedback, or support, things may have been different.

Remember, it’s okay to invite people into the process when you’re still mixing the cake. It doesn’t have to be fully baked. In fact, involving others helps to foster a sense of inclusion in your workplace. It gives others a chance to share their opinion and feel heard and valued for their contributions.

Accept that no one has all the answers

The final thing to think about here is the fact that neither you nor anyone else has all the answers. It can be especially difficult for L&D professionals to accept this because of their position as the person delivering the learning. However, L&D professionals are people too, people who are still learning and growing.

Acknowledge that and emphasize it to your learners because the learning never truly stops. Instead of trying to present yourself as perfect, why not use this opportunity to inspire and motivate your learners to reach their potential.

Demonstrate that you are a real person. You have pains, struggles, successes, failures, and you are not afraid to continue learning. This will help you connect with your learners and foster a more productive, collaborative environment.

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