August 1, 2023

266: The Truth About Perfectionism (And What To Do About It) with Thomas Curran

Many of us fall into the perfectionist trap. Whether it’s because of strict bosses, high academic standards, or just self-motivation, perfectionism is more common than you’d think. While it’s important and healthy to strive to do our best work, at some point all managers have to acknowledge that people will make mistakes and good enough can truly be good enough.

Today’s guest is Thomas Curran. Thomas is a professor of psychology at the London School of Economics and author of a landmark study that the BBC hailed as “the first to compare perfectionism across generations.” His TED Talk on perfectionism has received more than three million views. His research has been featured in media ranging from the Harvard Business Review to New Scientist to CNN and he has appeared on numerous television and radio programs.

Thomas and I talk about, no surprise, perfectionism. He shares the problems that come from being a perfectionist and working in a perfectionist culture, what’s really driving perfectionist tendencies, how to identify someone struggling with perfectionism, and of course, what to do to manage perfectionist tendencies in yourself and how to help others.

Members of the Modern Manager community get a chance to win 1 of 5 copies of “The Perfection Trap”.

Get it when you join the Modern Manager community.

Get FREE mini-sketchnotes with the big idea from the week’s episode delivered to your inbox when you subscribe to my weekly email.

Read the related blog article: Stop Perfectionism From Impeding Your Team’s Success




  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:53 What is perfectionism?
  • 04:20 What are the harms of always striving for perfection?
  • 06:57 A story of unhealthy perfectionism
  • 09:29 How can managers give feedback to perfectionists?
  • 11:02 How to shift out of perfectionism thinking
  • 20:59 Creating a work environment that doesn’t set a perfectionist standard
  • 28:31 A great manager Thomas worked for
  • 30:45 Keeping up with Thomas
  • 31:50 [Extended episode only] Is it true that some aspects of perfectionism lead to success?
  • 39:12 [Extended episode only] What is the link between perfectionism and procrastination?

Get the extended episode by joining The Modern Manager community for just $15 per month.

Want More Great Episodes?

Check Out These Fan Favorites