We will embarrass ourselves at times; humans are not perfect; we will fail. There will be times when the toilet paper trail is attached to our shoe; that our fly will be the one that is open; or, that we will inadvertently call a co-worker a name usually reserved for our spouse. It happens. Leaders mess up.
My worst experience took place in a Wal-Mart. It was about five o’clock on a day that I had stayed home from work because I was sick. The flu bug had beat me up and my supply of Tylenol and diet Coke had run out; a trip to the store was required. I don’t think clearly when I am sick and so I made a poor outfit selection. I wore a t-shirt that was on inside out, work jeans that were two sizes too big, flip-flops and, because I had the chills, a trench coat that was missing a couple of buttons and the belt that went with it. My hair provided clear evidence of my high fever and my face was an interesting shade of putty. At the store I quickly found the Tylenol and headed toward the soft drink aisle. Unfortunately, I made a wrong turn and found myself in the liquor section. As I popped out into a more open part of the store, I ran into a colleague. He looked shocked; I tried to say hello as I finger combed my hair down a bit. We stumbled through a short conversation and he went on his way maintaining the same look of shock. I then realized that not only was I walking out of the liquor section looking horrible, but that the few buttons on my trench coat were buttoned incorrectly, the left side hung lower than did the right side. My relationship with that colleague was never the same.
(Yes, I resembled what some of you have termed a “Wal-martian.” OK, it was an “off” day for me.)
So, what do we do when we fail? We live. We move on. If the subject comes up, we laugh it off, keeping any explanation short. If we need to, we apologize for having the memory lapse or the bad timing. We are kinder the next time that we see another fall short. And, we are more tolerant of imperfection – in others and in ourselves.
Dare you admit that you have had an “off” day? Be careful, being honest about your failings may tarnish that “perfect” image you have been trying to perfect but it will strengthen your leadership skills!
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24