3 Surprising Ways to Get the Most from Screw Ups
The purpose of reflecting on past performance is improvement, not beating yourself up.
My insides shrivel when I think about dumb things I’ve said and done. It happened recently during a Q&A session with leaders of a Global organization.
Everything was going great, until one leader asked me what I thought my contribution to the leadership community was. I said some dumb thing that I want to erase.
The right response:
My response didn’t reflect my values.
Next time I’ll say, “I am my contribution to the leadership community. Everything I do expresses who I am. When you lose sight of who you are, you lose your contribution.”
Authentic leadership is about who you are. Identity determines function.
You are your contribution.
Three surprising ways to get the most from screw ups:
#1. Identify with your aspirations more than past performance.
It’s difficult to honestly reflect on past screw ups when who you are is tightly tied to how you did. When you perform poorly, you’re a loser, if you are what you do.
People who strive for excellence always perform below their expectations. You always can do better.
Even small failures are big deals for those who pursue excellence.
You’re always falling short and reaching high at the same time.
#2. Comfort is the enemy of the pursuit of excellence. Don’t say, “Great job,” to someone who feels they fell short. When you see frustration in someone, take it seriously. Ask, “How might you be better next time?”
Excellence is a journey without an end.
#3. Don’t ease up. Press forward. Prepare for next time when you fall short this time. In the future, I’ll have an answer, if someone asks about my contribution to the leadership community.
How might leaders get the most from screw ups?
Thank you Dan, this post resonates; what advice do have to stop/replace/prevent the self loathing cycle when the inevitable mistakes do happen?
Thanks Brad. To escape the self-loathing cycle, you might write a blog like I did. I find that the failures we carry with us get heavier as time passes.
Could you give yourself credit for successes, without letting up on your pursuit of better next time?
Accept the imperfection of humanity. Perhaps self-loathing is arrogance. It’s the idea that we’re fell below our perfection. (Which we don’t possess.)
Share what you’re learning.
I want to say, just lighten up. But for all us self-loathers, that sounds trite, even dangerous.
Thanks Dan, I don’t make the time to enjoy the successes enough, a quick victory lap and onto the next thing. Failures can weigh heavy as you said, and it is true that the best is to realize that I gave it my all and accept that not everything goes as planned, the illusion of perfection is a taskmaster. In cases where I didn’t give it my all, take responsibility for my half effort, learn and move on.
I aspire to write, and read, “If you want to be a writer, write.” Your advice on blogging may be a cleansing, encouraging experiment. Thanks again!
The blog continues to be spot on. Good post.
I had a job interview last week that I wish I could redo. I knew the hiring panel was going to call at 8am. I was up by 6 (my day off) to get ready. I have practice with every conceivable question (I made up) the board was going to ask. Long story short I was very unhappy with my performance. I have been replaying what happened over and over. I have decided to make it a growing lessons and just wait and see if I get the job. If I do get the job I wont use that to validate my performance on the interview. I know I could have done better and I will do better. I think its ok to expect more out of ourselves as leaders. If we set standers high for those below us then we have better be setting standers for ourselves every higher.
I completely agree, and that is what I have been doing. Thank you Vicoria
When replaying it’s helpful to shift from what you did to what you think would have been a better response and fine tune it so that you are more likely to produce the better response the next time. Works for me 🙂
I believe you need to assess and reflect on screw-ups – not to explain them or seek excuses (such as “I didn’t get the right info from ….” or “I know, I couldn’t believe that’s what ‘they’ said….”). Assessing and reflecting is to understand what WE can do better next time!
We are what we say and do. If someone chooses to define us in their thinking by one screw-up, nothing we can do about it but move on. Improvement comes from assessing, reflecting, and learning – even if others don’t choose to see that improvement!!!
Perfection is indeed unattainable as noted. It’s ok if set as a goal that can be used for comparison in our efforts related to the situation. Sadly, I believe, all too often, because perfection is the only allowable (but unattainable) goal, people never even engage…
The main thing is to make sure that the screwups are ones that you can come back from. The general advice is fail fast and fail often but keep in mind there are jobs / situations / circumstances where one chance is all you get. Screw it one time and you won’t have to worry – you’ll never be given another opportunity.
I was always taught to forget the past, Don’t worry about the future; and live today. After reading this article I have realized the only way to improve is by learning from your mistakes however distant they may be. What is important is that you pick yourself up, press forward, and prepare for the next round. I think it is easy to loath on your mistakes, harder still is to improve because of that mistake. Thank you Mr. Rockwell, you have taught me a valuable lesson today.
So Dan, what do you really think your contribution to the Leadership community is?