I'm a perfectionist. My boss is telling me I need to be willing to make mistakes. Won't making mistakes at work make me look bad and ruin my reputation?

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Q: I’m a perfectionist. My boss is telling me I need to be willing to make mistakes. Won’t making mistakes at work make me look bad and ruin my reputation?

A: No, most people who achieve success in their industry and enjoy their work worry more about learning than looking bad. Most people whose careers I admire have had some major embarrassing and public mistakes.

To answer your question, I interviewed someone who has become a household name because of her lack of perfection, Rachael Ray, author and TV host of “Rachael Ray.”

She actually started out her public career with her first big opportunity going up in flames … literally. She’d been invited by the Food Network to come on for a cooking segment. She poured olive oil into a pan with a flourish, only to watch the pan burst into flames. She says, “I figured this was the shortest career of anyone to appear on the Food Network,” but she laughed and kept cooking.

Ray says she’s realized that this formula of stick to what you’re cooking whether you make mistakes or not has been critical to her success. She thinks it makes cooking more approachable for more people. I think it makes all of us more approachable to people who want to hire us.

Consider this: Would you rather work with people who are perfect or people who can make mistakes, keep working and learn from them?

I was curious about what Ray has to teach the rest of us about how not to get hamstrung by our avoidance of mistakes. I wanted to know how she makes it look easy to just keep “cooking” in an industry that reveres perfect people.

She offered these tips:

Don’t try to be somebody else at work, because you won’t have fun and you won’t be good at it.

Find something you like and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Find the part of what you are doing now that you can enjoy and do it as well as you can.

When you make mistakes, relax and learn something.

Always trust your gut.

Your customer comes first. Don’t make your job about your ego.

She also reflected that she has learned it’s a bad idea to try things that aren’t a good fit for who you are. She mentioned that she would never do the show “Iron Chef” again because she isn’t a chef or competitive about food. Thus, part of success is finding out what you don’t want to do and saying no.

Ray summarized her advice: “What’s the point of being here if you don’t take risks?” I think Ray has cooked up a recipe for workplace success. You may surprise yourself with what you can achieve when you care more about what you contribute and less about how you look!

The last word(s):

Q: Do you have one suggestion that could help my career?

A: Yes, behave well even when you feel bad.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube