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Celebrating our Mistakes and Ourselves

Jun 21, 2024

I recently took the Strengthsfinder Assessment and read “First Break All The Rules,” which resonated with me. However, I question the common dichotomy of “strengths and weaknesses.” What if we are not just the sum of our strengths and weaknesses? Furthermore, how might this relate to the idea of celebrating our mistakes? Here’s a snapshot of a month in my life to illustrate this insight.

1st Monday of the Month: I met with a new client, Sue, and pushed her hard in our initial conversation. It was provocative and made the CEO think. She immediately hired me because I was so “direct and honest.” The truth was, I was unguarded and didn’t worry about what I said. Often, that works. They hadn’t hired me yet, so there was no fear of losing the client!

The Following Week: The engagement with Sue’s team went sideways as I was drawn into the dysfunction around them. Being unguarded stirred up messes that no one was ready for.

3rd Week of the Month: I was with another client, working with my consulting partner, Brandon. I knew I had to give him hard feedback after the session. We went for coffee, and I did my best to help. I was unguarded and genuinely cared, but ultimately, I was sloppy and insensitive. His response? He was wounded by the feedback, and our working relationship hasn’t been the same since.

Last Week of the Month: I used those experiences to challenge two other colleagues, Ken and Janet. Ken had decided to steer clear of Janet and work in silos. I challenged them to exchange feedback, drawing from my past experiences. The approach ultimately helped. I wouldn’t have had the insight without the messes I had made.

Going full circle, we had our final session with Sue and her team that same week. It finally all came together, and the organization experienced major breakthroughs, likely saving millions of dollars and a lot of misery.

By nature, I’m unguarded and don’t like to filter. I take the initiative and make messes. Sometimes, it works out, and amazing things happen. Sometimes, it doesn’t, and I beat myself up and try to repair the damage. Yet, I wonder if this is more than just the sum of good vs. bad outcomes.

Recently, I debriefed with a good friend and leader of my team. He described me as “intense,” which stung a little because I’d rather be known as sincere, passionate, or energetic. So I asked what I should change to be a better leader and consultant. He said plainly, “Nothing.” His insight: “Be aware of how people perceive you, but if you are too worried about correcting the few times it doesn’t work out, you might miss out on all the times it does. It’s better to err on the side of being yourself. You are intense because you care so much and are so genuine.”

Then it hit me. The driving force, intent, and basic strengths were behind my successes and failures. They were different outcomes of the same me. My strengths are my weaknesses, and my weaknesses are my strengths. They are all the same me. My challenge is to become a better version of myself. The challenge is to see that all of me shows up in different ways at different times, which has different effects on others. Just because they don’t respond favorably doesn’t necessarily mean it was wrong or unproductive. Just because they like it doesn’t make it good, either.

This is not to excuse mistakes or defend every blunder. I make them. I should own them. I should apologize for them. But separating my decisions from the heart, intent, and driving force behind my decisions is key. I believe recognizing this is essential for celebrating our mistakes. We are all different people with varying ideas, beliefs, and decision-making processes, and to say that some are good or some are bad means missing out on all the value our differences can add. At my core, there may be ‘strengths and weaknesses,’ but they are the ‘same me.’

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