What do you mean, I’m only human? On failing

Nothing like realizing you failed to meet your own standards to ruin your day, right? It’s one of the more painful lessons to accept: I am not 100% in control of myself 100% of the time, so I make mistakes, even and especially as a leader. Yikes.

When you have been struggling with a decision for a long time, the relief of finally getting to the point where everything is settled and out in the open is SO real. I have recently made such a decision. Out of necessity, I kept it a secret while I was still undecided, but now that the decision has been made, it’s out there. Things will change, for me and for my team. You can probably imagine that feelings were happening.

Usually, the way we incorporate talking about our more human side as a topic into our daily conversations – their feelings, others’ feelings, my feelings – is beneficial to achieving higher perfomance and a better working atmosphere. It’s a fact that humans have feelings, and working humans don’t magically turn into feelings-free robots. This also means that sometimes, feelings will come out in a way that is less than ideal. In this case, it happened to me: I overshared how I felt on the personal side with my decision, and that got mixed in with other discussions. I usually strive to create an atmosphere of optimism – look at this blog, unrelenting optimism abound! People that are optimistic about their capabilities and their future tend to like to come to work, which is a great first step to achieving things you’d like to achieve. In this case, my personal feelings were not even that negative, but I was thoughtless in the way I shared them, and it caused a disruption in our usual spirit. I don’t want to be the kind of leader that is incapable of seeing things only from the perspective of their personal feelings, but in this case, I failed. Luckily, I didn’t fail catastrophically (I mean… I hope so) or repeatedly over a long period of time, but fail I did.

Fortunately, my team is open and resilient enough to call me out on what I was doing. Realizing that my authentic human feelings were in the way of being a good leader? Ouch. This kind of feedback stings quite a bit! It is not as difficult for me to accept when I made a mistake on the fact-level, and I am usually happy to be corrected. Let’s all strive to be better at what we do, right? But this is harder to correct than a mistaken fact or a typo, for sure. Because the thing with feelings is, you cannot quickly change how you feel – but you can manage your behavior in a different way. With awareness, I can strive to behave in a way that is more cohesive with the team culture I want to create. Even if it stings to hear, I am quite grateful for the feedback. Imagine how much worse it would be if I didn’t know! And yet, my most important learning here is not that I failed, or that I will strive to behave in a better way. My most important learning is that I failed, and things are still okay. I will fail again, and things will be okay then, as well. I can lead while making mistakes – as long as we reinforce the things we aim for more often than the things we’d like to avoid, we’ll be fine.