I’ve been battling a cranky shoulder for some time now. (I’d like to blame it on the SHRM Hockey game, but sadly it’s been with me for far longer than that.) So it was under much duress that I finally agreed to see a massage therapist to see if she could help.
As I lay there being disassembled by a woman half my size (but with, by all accounts, twice my strength), I listened to “soothing” music that included an unknown artist playing the flute. The tune was lost on my, but I found myself oddly transfixed by the moments where the musician took a breath between notes. It was those breathy moments that I found soothing for some reason, far more so than the rest of the song.
I was reminded of an interview Jeff Tweety of Wilco did with Chuck Klosterman where he discussed the Fleetwood Mac song “I Don’t Want to Know,” and how much he loved the sound of Lindsey Buckingham‘s fingers sliding on the guitar strings. I felt the same way about the flutist. It was that tiny imperfection that somehow made the song more perfect.
People are the same way, I think. Those who are perfect are either fake, untrustworthy or both. We are uncomfortable with perfection in others. I recently had a conversation with a friend about a shared acquaintance whom we both respect and admire. After a few moments of acknowledging how much we liked this person and respected their work, the discussion quickly turned to what their inevitable weak spot must be. It’s not realistic or acceptable to believe there isn’t one, so our conversation turned to finding something. (In this case, we could not come up with one. We settled on the idea we don’t know the person well enough to detect it. It is not conceivable that one doesn’t exist.)
When we encounter someone who is very good at what they do, seems to know their craft, and have shown themselves to be good, caring people, we get uncomfortable. We search for the problem. We question their motivation, what they are “really after.” We create scenarios that, while unlikely, can explain their behavior through some ulterior motive. And somehow this imaginary flaw makes us feel much more at home with the idea of that person.
The workplace is no different, of course. As part of the HR team, though, it is in some ways your role to be trustworthy. To be open, to be honest, to be approachable. And if you are what some would consider a “consummate professional,” never letting your guard down, never taking a wrong step and, to be sure, never showing any flaw in your professional persona, you too will be looked at askance. You will be untrusted, perceived as fake, and will have coworkers and clients alike wondering what your “real story” might be. Even if you have none.
Especially if you have none.
Don’t think for a moment that remaining “above the fray” makes you more approachable, more trustworthy or more admired in the workplace. You can achieve that through competence and imperfection. Be very good at what you do, but make sure you are open about your own areas of improvement. That will make you a much more human, much more approachable, and much more acceptable in the eyes of others.
Your imperfections make you perfect. Embrace them.