I screwed up my first leadership role.
I didn't just make a few mistakes, I monumentally screwed up!
And my team decided to tell me.
When I tell this story, it still makes me feel sick.
One Tuesday morning, I had a phone call from one of my team members. He asked me to join the team for a meeting the following day: 2.00pm in an hotel in Grantham, Lincolnshire. I asked what it was about, and he calmly stated they wanted to speak with me about something.
I was quietly, but not overly concerned and I went about my day.
The next day, I showed up at the hotel and was greeted by my team, sitting in a half-circle in a meeting room, with one chair positioned at the front: That was for me.
The next two hours were two of the most awful of my life.
They proceeded to tell me that I was dictating, laying down the law, being unreasonable, asking too much, not listening to them, ignoring everything that they had done before, believing I knew best, interfering, and generally just being a total pain in the arse.
They made it very obvious that my new leader 'bull in a china shop' approach wasn't in the least bit appreciated.
Quickly, I realised that resistance was most probably futile and I kept quiet. They launched - what felt like - their attack for close to an hour.
I was furious. Livid. And defensive.
I was also very close to bursting into tears, so I took a few minutes to compose myself.
I realized I had two options:
- Kick them into touch or,
- Listen, reframe, and regain 'control'
My firey temper told me to go with the first. But I didn't: I went with the second.
All I said was, "I've made some mistakes. And I'm sorry. What can I do differently that will change this situation for the better?"
Following their suggestions - most of which were helpful - I thanked them.
I left the hotel, sat in the car park, and cried for about an hour. It was that kind of crying kids do when they can't catch their breath.
The following day I called my boss and told him about the meeting (more uncontrollable sobbing!). I decided to tell him about the meeting because I assumed he already knew of their displeasure. He didn't. My team came to me first.
As much as this event hurt - and it did - it was the biggest gift I could ever have received.
The following year I went on to win 'Regional Manager of the Year', my team won 'Region of the year', and people in my team won awards.
The moral of this story?
As hard as it might be to hear negative comments, to hear that your behaviour isn't appreciated, to hear that you've screwed up, it's a blessing in disguise.
Take it as a gift.
Take the insight and learn from it.
Use it as the springboard to something better.
There is no betterment in comfort.
Grab a hold of the discomfort, absorb it, digest it, and use it to build your genius.