Mistakes and Failure will happen. It’s inevitable. Even as I type these first few sentences, I am filled with dread and anxiety wondering if I’ve made errors. We don’t like mistakes. We cover them up and try to hide the failures. We simply do not want people to know or think that we are not doing a good job. An effective leader learns from their mistakes and is not afraid to face the fear of failure.
Expect to make a mistake.
Nothing comes out perfectly. Babe Ruth struck out twice as often as he hit home runs. Albert Einstein failed his college entrance exam; teachers described him as “mentally slow, and adrift in foolish dreams.” Walt Disney was fired from his first media job for “lack of imagination.” Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. I recently talked with a coach that felt his team was very good; they just couldn’t win a game.
How about Competing not to Lose
This philosophy will only result a “self-fulfilling prophesy” – you will lose. When has playing it safe worked? This never works out in the long run. The solider hiding in the foxhole will get hit. The real question is are you competing to hold back and find excuses?
I think this attitude and mindset extends beyond the playing field. I would say that most people play not to lose. In other words, most of us live in such a way that our main focus is on not ruining our lives with some kind of a major failure.
- Steven Furtick
In the face of a decision or future goal, go all in. There will always be the possibility of failure. If you are gonna fall, fall bravely and with style (see hurdler above). This has little to do with actual falling, but if you are going into something and make a mistake do it fearlessly and aggressively – so you can learn from it.
We will never be able to completely avoid mistakes. Now when a mistake happens, and it will, think of it as an opportunity to:
1. Be optimistic
Character is revealed not in the wins but in the losses. You can control your response to this mistake. Expectations – don’t be too surprised.
2. Take Responsibility
It’s probably everyone’s fault but yours. I have seen coaches blame their athletes for “not listening,” or not “following the game plan.” I have been guilty of this in the past. Of course you made the greatest game plan since John Wooden, but if they only listened. But let’s be honest, the “buck still stops at you.” You are the boss, the leader, the coach. Taking responsibility is a crucial step in this process.
- What could I or should I have done differently?
- What can I learn from this?
- What can I take away from this that will help me in the future?
4. Get over it
I read a post a long time ago that was worth saving. JC Maxwell explained:
The five behaviors of people who haven’t gotten over past difficulties:
- Comparison. Either measuring your failures against those of others, or convincing yourself that your circumstances were harder than theirs.
- Rationalization. Telling yourself and others that you have good reasons for not getting over past hurts and mistakes. Believing that those who encourage you “just don’t understand.”
- Isolation. Pulling back and keeping yourself separate from others, either to avoid dealing with the issues, or to continue to feel sorry for yourself.
- Regret. Getting stuck lamenting or trying to fix things that cannot be changed.
- Bitterness. Feeling like a victim and blaming others for negative outcomes.
No matter what behavior you are experiencing; it isn’t good. This loss, this mistake, this failure might be the best thing that has ever happened to your leadership. Find that teachable moment for both you and your team.
Be optimistic about the opportunity, take responsibility, learn from your mistake, and get over it. I know this is easier said then done. Find a friend, a coach, and/or a mentor – they will help you.
Now be prepared, better yet expect, to make a mistake. Then be prepared to achieve more then you ever thought possible.