Leadership Mistakes

Leadership Coaching Tip: the Daring Art (and Heart) of Recovery

Anese Cavanaugh asked:

How many times have you had a situation at work, or at home, where you felt ‘knocked off-kilter’, ‘thrown for a loop’ or ‘disgruntled’?

Probably not often (wink). But for you who have experienced something like this, think about a particular situation. Did it come from a meeting, conversation or project that didn’t go so well, some harsh feedback, a flub as a public speaker or something that you just didn’t expect? It often feels like “failure.”

It happens to us all, and as painful as it is, this is a place where there lies an abundance of opportunity for growth in effective leadership.

Looking back at your “event,” what brought you back to center? Got you back on track? Helped you move forward? My guess is that you “recovered” – it may have been a quick or long and painful process – but you did it.

The act of “recovery” is a gift. It’s an art – and it’s much like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Recovery is the ability to “get back” or “regain activity.” And for effective leadership, recovery is essential.

At a deeper level, the act of “recovery” also requires heart. Heart for yourself and heart for others. Compassion. Think about a time you goofed. What was necessary to “forgive” yourself? When someone else falls down, it’s essential to engage the heart and truly give them the space, courage and compassion to get up and come back stronger.

I believe heart, and the desire to create a positive impact, is at the center of recovery.

We all have our special processes for recovery. We all have our ways of engaging the heart. What are yours? Here are three common examples I see in personal coaching work with others.

Leadership Coaching Scenario One: You’re giving a big presentation and you make a mistake in the data. You feel yourself shuffle, perhaps flush, and so begins your inner dialogue: “I just totally messed up; oh, they’re never going to ask me in again; I’m going to lose this account!” So notice, where is your attention? It’s definitely not on the group. By now you’ve probably REALLY lost them.

Instead: Make your mistake, notice that you made it in the moment, correct it if necessary, and move on. Continue to be a fully engaged public speaker. Keep your attention on the presentation and the people in your audience.

Leadership Coaching Scenario Two: You’ve just completed a project that you think is really great. You send it out to your team and the feedback is scathing. (Maybe not “scathing”, but disappointing.) Here’s your chance: option one – you “shut down”, start to focus on how you’ve failed, how no one gets you, how you shouldn’t even be in this line of work, how YOU are a failure.

Instead: Get your feedback, put it all in your feedback “basket”, try to remember it’s not “personal” – it’s about the “thing”. Quickly remember that feedback is just feedback. What can you take from “this” feedback and use to move you forward? What systems might you put in place so this doesn’t happen again? For example, you might design in a structure for feedback before completion. Finally, make any necessary shifts, put this incident in your “future learning resource file” and move on.

Leadership Coaching Scenario Three: You’ve been exercising and eating clean for one month! Things are moving along, energy is up, inches are disappearing. This whole self-care thing rocks! And zing! It’s the holidays – parties, family, meals, and vacation all hit at once. Here’s your chance: option one – let go of all that good work; it’s a moot point anyway, why try? You’ve failed, so while you’re at it, you beat yourself up a bit.

Instead: Give yourself a break! Enough with the self-bullying. Do what you can: move your workouts to the morning, substitute the gym for brisk walks with family, continue to eat clean AND give yourself permission to enjoy some celebratory cheer. Make it fun.

For the rest of the month, notice when you need to recover and exercise those “muscles”! These things are bound to happen and they can be really challenging when they do. And with a bit of recovery, you’ll be right back on track moving forward to make the impact you want!

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