NOTE TO READER: Adapted from an internal staff blog to colleagues within the BroadReach Group as a reflection on the group’s refreshed Values.
I have failed, I have made mistakes, got so many things wrong, I have sat with problems I could not see my way through, and I have felt paralyzed by perfectionism. The truth is, I do not have all the answers, all the time. What I do have is resilience, curiosity, incredible mentors and Google. I am a learner.
Why am sharing this? I have just gotten off the TedExGreekStWomen – hosted by Sairah Ashman, CEO of Wolff Olins – this year’s theme was Fearless where truly extraordinary women shared their leadership journeys and lessons learnt with a refreshing openness, vulnerability and strength. So, I wanted to honor them by following suit, in the hopes that it may help other emerging leaders to embrace their journey -bumps and all-, because nothing truly great ever came from playing it safe or colouring inside the lines!
Just to be clear, when I am talking about failure, I am not talking of gross misconduct, negligence or dereliction of duty. I am talking about having an open dialogue about what it is to be a lifelong learner: a person who tries things to the best of their abilities, and with the best intent to cause something to happen but from time-to-time things don’t go to plan.
Making mistakes or struggling is not something we talk about enough in our culture of achievement – maybe we are afraid of appearing weak or somehow flawed. I think this does us all a disservice as we only share the end point – the kodak moment – not the journey. In my career, about five minutes before just about every major success, something seemingly catastrophic happened or was about to happen. If I hadn’t signed iron clad non-disclosure agreements, I could tell tales…
I nearly caused an international diplomatic incident, set fire to a listed building and froze on live TV, I’ve misdirected emails, mispronounced names and misspelt things…disasters big and small. I’ve grown wiser and stronger, having learnt far more, had more fun and gained a greater sense of personal and collective achievement through these storms than I have from plane sailing. This is what I’ve learnt:
· When my back is to the wall that is when I come alive, I have learned to harness that nervous energy into pure focus and to push through. I used to procrastinate and do ‘busy work’, but now I do the hardest thing first, before I even open my emails in the morning.
· I always remember the Virgin Value, that was shared during my first week with the Group many years ago, ‘Everyone *#%&s up, just don’t make the same mistake twice’. That ethos always stuck with me: try, learn and move on.
· Asking for help and advice is a sign of maturity not weakness. When you reach out, don’t expect someone to take over or rescue you, rather take the opportunity to grow, expand your mind and be challenged.
· Remember who was there for you and with you when the chips were down – and reciprocate should the need arise. I have met some of my best friends and most trusted mentors and allies in times of stress and strife. When the dust settles, remember to say thank you!
· Forgive yourself, it’s okay to not be awesome every minute of every day, but after you have taken a knock, give yourself a moment, get up and keep moving forward
· Mostly I have learned that if I take two deep breaths and a sip of water I can tackle just about any challenge. I’d urge everyone find a quick ritual to ground yourself.
I am a learner. That means a constant journey of inquiry, trial, reading, listening, questioning, self-reflection and experimentation, I hope you will join me on this journey. It requires humility and the odd helping of humble pie, but it is also real and exciting…and I am pretty sure that if you just keep moving in the direction of your North Star, the path to greatness is just 5 minutes away…