Key Point: You only trip when you’re moving. I’ve had some great success as a leader. I’ve also failed in small and BIG ways. That’s the plain truth. I’ve learned so much from both. And I am so much more complete as a human being as a result. Am I “perfect?” Hardly and never… But I get better in iterative ways all the time.
Yesterday, I gave a presentation on behalf of a leader I really care about, and I wanted to add so much value to his offsite leadership event. Problem was, I was off my game. I couldn’t seem to achieve a meaningful connection with the audience even though I pride myself in doing that more often than not. The other week, I presented a plan to my boss and he threw up over most of it. I didn’t listen well enough to what he wanted. In between these events I’ve had some nice wins. The goal is to deposit more value than the deficit attached to doing things that diminish it. But trust me, if you’re moving, trying things and have a point of view, you are going to fail; it’s only a matter of when and how big. Don’t believe the pristine press of the perfect “golden child.” Those stories are often made up. The reason we love real and objective biographies is that we see authenticity, humanness and embrace the value or devalue related to the subject. We learn… We relate.
So what happens when we trip? How do we best respond? To give us some researched guidance, please note the following from a recent HBR blog by Mitchell Lee Marks, Philip Mirvis and Ron Ashkenas:
“We’ve interviewed hundreds of executives who have been fired, laid off, or passed over for promotion (as a result of mergers, restructuring, competition for top jobs, or personal failings). Often, we find them working through the classic stages of loss defined by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: They start with shock and denial about the events and move on to anger at the company or the boss, bargaining over their fate, and then a protracted period of licking their wounds and asking themselves whether they can ever regain the respect of their peers and team. Many of them never make it to the “acceptance” stage.
That’s partly because, as social psychologists have found in decades’ worth of studies, high achievers usually take too much credit for their successes and assign too much external blame for their failures. It’s a type of attribution bias that protects self-esteem but also prevents learning and growth. People focus on situational factors or company politics instead of examining their own role in the problem.
Some ask others for candid feedback, but most turn to sympathetic friends, family members, and colleagues who reinforce their self-image (“You deserved that job”) and feed their sense of injustice (“You have every right to be angry”). This prevents them from considering their own culpability and breaking free of the destructive behavior that derailed them in the first place. It may also lead them to ratchet back their current efforts and future expectations in the workplace.
Those who rebound from career losses take a decidedly different approach. Instead of getting stuck in grief or blame, they actively explore how they contributed to what went wrong, evaluate whether they sized up the situation correctly and reacted appropriately, and consider what they would do differently if given the chance. They also gather feedback from a wide variety of people (including superiors, peers, and subordinates), making it clear that they want honest feedback, not consolation.”
- The first thing a great pitcher does after throwing a home run is focus on how to make the next pitch better. The same goes for quarterbacks after tossing an interception. The sports metaphors (and others) are endless. Yes, we must REALLY learn from the “trip,” but we have to be both humble students AND fearless going forward. The first step after reasonable grief and frustration is to commit to forward progression.
- As noted above: Do not get stuck in grief or blame. Sure, we must be aware of our feelings of loss, disappointment, etc. But at the right time for each of us, we have to ACCEPT, get up, and look for that chance to “throw again.”
- Recognize that you’re writing a rich and wonderful autobiography filled with the fully authentic you. What a boring story if you’re just sprinting on a perfectly smooth highway. And how much would we all learn from that? Relish the TRIP… A true double meaning!!
Tripping and getting up in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: As someone starting out in an industry where we don’t “know all the ropes” yet, a little “trip” can be day ruining, but a “big trip” could be career ending. (At least that’s what we scare ourselves into thinking). Really though, we can handle the scrapes… What’s even worse than a “trip,” is not being allowed the opportunity to fall in the first place. I’d rather max out a credit card on Neosporin because I “tripped,” than stand in place because my company doesn’t trust me enough to take that risky jump. Millennials want to jump, so let us.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis