If I Fall Will You Catch Me?

I spoke at the 2015 WISE Symposium held in the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University last week. What an amazing event! Over 900 inspired and energetic women entrepreneurs and business leaders engaged with 30 speakers throughout the day, including 2 keynote presenters and 14 breakout sessions.

During the Q & A portion of my breakout on How to Make SMART Decisions, a young man (Yep, guys were there too!) asked what one might do when you’ve made a tough decision, but it wasn’t the right call?

I quickly advised him to “be a duck”.  “Let it roll off your back”, I said.

However, he approached me after the session with more detail. Apparently, the team with which he works won’t allow him to move on from his misstep. “They bring it up every chance they get”, he told me. We discussed the importance of authentic leadership. The kind where when we make a mistake (and who can say they have not ever made a mistake), we own it.  We thoughtfully acknowledge the error and work to resolve or reduce any downstream impact.

Still, his dilemma troubled me during the flight back to Charlotte.

It’s easy to say we gotta own our mistakes, but that can be challenging when an organization or a team has created a culture where failing forward is not acceptable.

Unfortunately, a great many companies do a poor job of celebrating creativity, diversity and innovation in our ideas – especially when we don’t strike gold the first time!

I often share the importance of The Three “C”s of High Performing Work Teams — communication, collaboration and confidence. Confidence is really about learning to trust one another. Typically, trust is built through repeated experiences.  As we take note of consistent behavior (good or bad), we come to expect or learn to trust the person will deliver the more of the same.  There is value in building trust through our experiences, but it can also be a double-edged sword!

Yes, we must employ reason + logic, weigh the risks and trust our instincts to make SMART decisions, but there’s no way to ALWAYS choose the right path.

When poor decisioning happens to a fellow team member or even your boss and they own it, its up to us as colleagues to “be a duck” and let it roll.  Whether remote or co-located,  we must help build a team culture that makes it okay to be human.

Remember the trust fall scene in the 2004 comedy classic, “Mean Girls” where Miss Norbury (Tina Fey) holds a rally for the students to apologize for their wrong doings?  After each girl apologizes, she falls backwards into a crowd of students as a symbol of trust.

Wouldn’t it be cool if your team could trust YOU when they fall?


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