A Most Common Daily Mistake

People will often share with me that they wish they had more time to think about the future and be a more intentional leader. I remember talking with one fellow about it and asked him what prevented him from finding the time. I really appreciated his answer. He did not say that his time was spent saddling up his white horse and rushing off to save the day from the challenges which were simply too great for others. Rather, he said he seemed to spend most of his day rectifying the mistakes he had made the previous day. He was of course exaggerating but also very serious in his reflections.

What I have discovered is that those frequent mistakes are less about important decisions which went awry, and more about our interactions with people around us which left us dissatisfied or regretful. We lost our cool and became overly aggressive, if not somewhat hostile during a disagreement. We became distracted during an important conversation, focusing more on something in our own head while tuning out the other person. We postponed – again – a development opportunity which was really important for someone else. We grew impatient with the lack of progress on a project and did not take time to listen to the underlying causes. My guess is you get the picture. And keep in mind that examples such as these are just the ones we are aware of. How many other miscues did we make which did not even register with us but did with others?

As we approach the end of another year, I hope you will take some time to reflect on the way you typically interact with others. Assess the impact you are having on them. Do you leave them better off, or more confused, frustrated, or feeling judged. For which circumstances would you like to have a “do-over?”

Remember that you demonstrate leadership one conversation, one interaction at a time. You must be committed to making each one as positive and productive as possible. Reflect on those which did not go so well. Pinpoint what caused them to go off the rails. And identify what you will try to do differently the next time around.

As a leader you must work with all kinds of people, including those who are in some way difficult, perhaps even frustrating on occasions. That is part of the territory. If you simply blame the poor outcome of an interaction on the other person or don’t care enough to make it better, don’t expect those relationships to improve. Going forward, try taking a renewed ownership for making each interaction as good as it can be. Being human, you will still make daily mistakes. But over the long haul, people will view you more as an ally they need, rather than another reason they are not thrilled to come to work. And who knows, it might even reduce the time you once needed for damage control, providing you with a bit more time to lead proactively.

Enjoy the day.

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