I Am a Perfectionist. OH, REALLY SUNNY BOY??? Perfectionism and Procrastination.

Perfectionism and procrastination – insecurity with lipstick on.

John was a “perfectionist” or at least that’s what he said.

John had a good job in XYZ technologies where he was a regional sales manager. He gave good, okay results, and both his sales team and superiors liked him.

John was a happy man, until the day XYZ technologies hired Mr. Sergio de la Rosa, a very famous person from the industry, as the global sales advisor.

Mr Sergio de la Rosa, an entrepreneur and sales consultant, was born in Italy but was adopted by 2   Italian lawyers when he was 5. He lived his childhood near Napoli. His biological parents were Roma-Gypsy, so although Sergio was 100% Italian, his skin color was darker than most Italians.

Sergio went to the famous international school of Naples and studied Business in Boston , and soon after started working in a famous US software company based in silicon valley. Besides Italian, Sergio spoke perfect English with a Brooklyn accent (that’s another story). And although Sergio did well at his job, he quit after 6 months, a decision his parents disagreed with.

John was not a good fit for that role. He had all the academic background but all he provided was an OK job. He pissed me off during the interview I had with him when he told me with pride that he is a perfectionist. Perfectionism, Alex, is insecurity with lipstick on.

Sergio left the nice office environment in San Jose and went back to the East Coast to work with a friend on a new startup selling specialized software for the Hotel Industry.

The job required personal “cold” visits to hotels and the goal of these visits was to have a conversation with the hotel’s marketing manager and show the, the benefits of the new software. It was tough personal sales. 

The start-up evolved and within the next few years, it became a major player in the Hotel Industry. One of the major reasons for its success was the uncompromised sales tactics of Sergio. He had an aggressive cold selling approach and a shark mentality. Now in his 40’s, Sergio sold his share on hotelexamplereservations.com for a very nice juicy price.  He then started working as a business consultant because he wanted to have more free time and dedicate himself to his family and his hobbies.

Sergio was notorious for bringing results to businesses around the world and also  for choosing the right persons for the job. He was a very well paid sales coach. His choices were often being criticized but in the tough business world, what counts are results; everything else is not important at the end of the day.

He often chose candidates by instinct and rejected others who seemed to fulfill all necessary requirements, but their personality and ethos were not what he evaluated.

Today was the day John had an interview with Sergio since XYZ technologies were re-evaluating their success in Europe because their last semester sales were not good.

They wanted to have the most competitive sales team, inside sales operations, and regional sales managers in the field and around Europe.  Sergio’s advice and consultancy had been proven to be very successful in the US and they wanted to apply the same concept in Europe.

The interview started at 09:00 am sharp, Irish time, at the office’s EMEA headquarters in downtown Dublin.

John was very confident in his academic background (he graduated XXX with a very good degree and had his Master’s degree in ….), and because he did well during the 5 years he had the regional sales manager position.

No one knows what was said during that interview since it took place behind closed doors. We, know , however, what John said to a colleague after he came out of the interview room

John told him that Mr. Sergio de la Rosa was not what he expected him to be. He was not formally dressed; instead, he was wearing jeans and a dark green shirt, without a tie.

And although very friendly, he kept quiet throughout most of the interview, asked some questions, but mostly let John speak.

What made a big impression on him was Sergio’s reaction when he told him that he was a perfectionist. His response was: “Oh really Sunnyboy?” He found it very rude for Sergio (an advisor of his reputation) to call him like that.

Of course, John did not respond and continued to be polite with Sergio.

At the end of the month, John was replaced from this position and rumors say he has been given an administrative office job.

A year after, I coincidentally met Sergio at an airport in the Netherlands, where both of us were waiting to catch up to a connecting flight. . I was headed to Cork and he, to Dublin. We had a discussion and after some time the discussion switched to John since I knew his parents personally. I asked him, what happened and if he was the reason why he was removed from the position he had.

Sergio replied and said:

John was not a good fit for that role. He had all the academic background but all he provided was an OK job. He pissed me off during the interview I had with him when he told me with pride that he is a perfectionist. Perfectionism, Alex, is insecurity with lipstick on.

What do you mean Sergio?

What I mean is that people that claim to be perfectionists are actually aiming for a goal that is not achievable. You are never going to be perfect at something, there is always room for improvement.

Perfectionism and procrastination are good friends.

You optimize an action or a sales process repeatedly, not because you want to give the best possible result. But because you do not want to start engaging.

And you don’t want to start engaging because you are insecure and afraid to make the first step. All big things in humanity were not made by perfectionists but by people that prepared well within a time frame. Do you think they just jumped in the water and did things?

Do you think Eisenhower and Montgomery’s D-days plan was perfect on June 6th, ’44?

Do you think the NASA team developed a perfect plan for the moon landing?

Don’t you think that 1000 little things could have been done better when those operations happened?

Of course, there were.

But you discover the mentality of people from the little things they say or don’t say … and damnit, you can’t have a person with that mentality in a critical position like that.

 A person everyone likes? How can that person be a good salesperson, let alone a sales manager? A sales manager makes the hard choices and is there to bring value to the organization he operates. He takes risks, fights and responds. He does not compromise. The reason why I responded to John the way I did was to see his reaction!!! And his reaction was nothing. He kept being polite. Is that the guy that is going to take our sales to the front??? The perfectionist?

Perfectionism and procrastination go together because someone, like John, avoids confrontation and procrastinates under the guise of being perfect!!!

My decision to hire Maria for the role and take John out proved to be a golden decision for XYZ industries. For those decisions, I’ve been paid the amount that I’ve been Alex, for bringing value to those organizations through the experience I have. For my decisions, I’ve been paid the amount that I’ve been Alex because I bring value to organizations through my experience.

Alex Valassidis