Monday, April 29th, 2013
HOW DO I SCREW UP? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS.
HOW HAVE I SCREWED UP? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS.
Cringe. Cringe. Cringe. I hope you know that feeling.
How do I know when I have messed up or am about to mess up or am in the middle of messing up?
I CRINGE! Inside and out. I hope you have a good cringe mechanism. It provides a signal to course correct or at the very least to learn from your own cringing. If you’ve lost all cringe ability, then you have lost your internal bearings to your power role and will need to be hit over the head by someone else.
All this to say is that I was beginning to cringe as I started to write. Here’s why. I want to talk directly to “you”. I want to be a little blunt and provocative so that the message hits a target. But the “you” was feeling a little accusatory. And “we” feels presumptuous. So what’s with my cringing?
Here it is: I am you. Have been you. We have met the enemy and it is us. These are not theoretical observations. They are not only what I have learned by watching top leaders work. They are a dairy of my own screw-ups.
I have been blind in all the ways I talk about–even while not wanting to be.
I have fired too late.
I have been seduced by people who worked for me into thinking I was better than I was.
I have hinted to people about promotions and then not come through.
I have created pain through neglect of projects or people or casual words in a formal situation.
I have assumed people could read my mind.
I have changed my mind without being clear about it to the company.
I have been soothed by people agreeing with me when I should have been looking for disagreement.
I have pushed an idea when the time was wrong.
I have used too many words when I shouldn’t have and too few when I should.
I have overloaded a system with too much change too fast and vice-versa.
I have protected my own role or budget by swallowing an opinion I should have given.
I have underestimated the pressure my strategy put on people when it came to execution
I have lost touch with the business because my office became too comfortable
I have muffed presentations to the Board or my EC colleagues and to analysts. (Talk about cringe!)
And I have very funny stories to back up these screw-ups. That’s one of the best parts about working with colleagues who get the humor of mistakes and have the awareness that big fat mess-ups are part of being the CEO or a top executive. And so is trying to minimize them.
So I write to “you” from “me”. Sharing from my own cringe moments not from my pristine observation post. I am you