We all start somewhere. We evolve. One. Step. At. A. Time. And, like a baby learning to walk, we fall down, get up, try again. Without failure there is nothing to learn from, no improvement. Eventually the baby walks.
The same thing awaits us as we evolve into Leaders. It certainly has been true. From the first time I took the reigns, I made mistakes
- You may give people a day off, when you shouldn’t have;
- You may not realize your bad day is reflected by your team;
- You are slow realizing, you, have become they.
These are just a few mistakes I’ve made, or things I would have liked to learn sooner. On realizing the mistake, each one left me feeling generally demoralized, perhaps even foolish, or silly. I felt as though I had gone nowhere while everyone else flew past me with their superior skills. These feelings were more pronounced earlier in my career.
Every one of them taught me something though. And part of what my mistakes have taught me, is that they’re part of the process.
Talk to any great leader, past, present, or future, and they will smile, telling you they made the exact same mistakes—and then some.
These leaders will tell you they learned more from their mistakes than their successes. Often, when I have made mistakes, I’m incredibly hard on myself, beat myself up over how stupid I may have been, how poorly I feel. I suspect I am not alone. You may feel much the same.
The challenge isn’t the mistakes you have made…rather about how you deal with them.
If you look at your mistakes and figure out how they happened, what you did wrong, what you may have forgotten to do, the whole thing becomes a learning experience. It becomes something that ultimately—if you let it—helps you become a better leader. One of my passions is photography and I took on a new challenge: doing product shoots.
My initial shots used a dSLR, suitable lenses, and flash. The product itself, jewelry, was set atop a velvet bust or fabric. The results were terrible despite my best efforts. The velvet ‘twinkled’ under intense light; lint seemed everywhere, despite endless lint rolling; and, focus was not acceptable.
It was a tremendous learning opportunity. I studied solutions, alternative approaches, and practiced. 100s, 100s of shots. Second generation efforts were only marginally better. Advice was conflicting, most thought I needed different equipment, better equipment. I persevered. I had seen exemplary work in magazines, I knew what was possible.
One option, on having made not just one but multiple mistakes, would have been to beat myself up, let it become a big negative, creating fear, and halting my further progress. Instead, I used it as a bag full of things not to do.
Being a good Leader is as much about learning what not to do, as it is what to do.
Do not let yourself become derailed. Stop. Think. Assess. Perhaps go for a walk. Then figure out what went wrong and try again.
The journey never ends. Achieving one’s best is a goal forever pursued yet never fully reached.