Like most people, I like to find a groove and pretty much stay there. When I feel moved to do so, when all the stars align just so, maybe learn something new. And, like most people, I’m comfortable sticking to a pretty sedate routine. Then suddenly, I found myself catapulted into an unfamiliar situation I didn’t feel ready for.
While helping out a new client, two of us planned to co-lead a meeting, by remote, with her clients. Although I’d been forewarned that my co-leader might not make the meeting, I chose to believe otherwise. My co-leader was also my new client. I didn’t want to fail her. As she predicted, my co-leader failed to make the meeting. It made me realize that 20 minutes of prep time with my co-leader had not been enough.
After awkward introductions, silences felt agonizing even in the safety of my own office. It had been difficult to arrange this multi-person call and I plowed ahead, keenly aware of the crickets in the long pauses after my questions. Sometimes no answers. What do you do when no one steps up?
Most of us want to leap right into that empty space and fill it up. But I learned that if you just sit tight, count to fifty, someone else will. And they did. When the meeting mercifully ended and I thought it had been a total disaster. I mentally relived it, listing all the ways I’d failed, and the questions I’d forgotten to ask.
For two hours after the meeting, I beat myself up, feeling like a total fraud, convinced that they thought me an amateur. I worried that they felt disrespected by my co-leader, who dropped them into the hands of someone they didn’t know.
But that’s what we do, isn’t it? We stretch into unknown territory either by need or design and in our heads we want (expect?) the meeting to go perfectly. Perfect intro, perfect delivery, perfect responses and in the end: perfection. Even if the whole meeting was perfect but one thing, we replay that one thing. Instead of applauding what went right, we make ourselves sick over what went wrong.
Then, I realized the clients were not complaining. So, I listened to the recorded meeting with fresh ears. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t perfect, but the gaps weren’t that long. The group had yielded answers to all but one question, and discovered places to improve my meeting skills.
What this means for you.
It is important to give ourselves grace when things don’t go as perfectly as we had hoped. Be sure to take note of all that went right. We’re all in various stages of learning new things and stepping into unknown territory is bravery-making.
Give yourself permission to fail. As hard as it might be to admit, we learn a lot in those moments. If you recast your perception, instead of seeing a failure look at it from another angle: What did you learn? How would you do it over? What would you do differently? If you learned even one thing, it’s a learning experience.
In reality, I fumbled in a few places and noticed they did too. However, we all remained polite and professional and pushed forward. The meeting wasn’t the disaster I initially perceived it to be. When the replay finished, more had been accomplished than I’d given myself credit for. An overall win.
It is said that perception is everything. How can you recast your inglorious moments?What’s one of your most recent learning experiences? I’d love to hear from you.