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.

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The questions:

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?

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