When You Stink, Grow Wings and Fly

Have you ever got the news that your work was less than stellar?

evaluation2Ever hear you were just...awful?

Did it sting?

Well, relax.  You can join the club of many great people.  The best part of any journey is the learning you get from trying, failing, and trying again.  

And that's what I get to do next week.

Not too long ago I did a new presentation with another colleague.  It was a test.  And while the content is great stuff, everything that could have gone wrong, did.  And we both knew it.  I remember I could feel it every step of the very long 120 minutes we delivered.

You know that feeling when you are a little kid and you fall on your face at the dance recital?  Or, perhaps you're the kid who just keeps missing the shot?  I got to relive my 4-year old nightmare at 38 in a massive auditorium with adults staring us down!

Several years ago I had a similar situation.

My boss asked me to take on content that I hadn't had a hand in developing. The content was a collective body of work that included some high-priced consultants and internal subject matter experts from all over the world.  The intent was to leverage knowledge across the globe, however very little of it had any local context.

A Dutch colleague of mine joined me in South Louisiana to co-facilitate.  (Indeed this was his first trip to the swamp!)    Our job was very clear: comply and follow the manual.

As you can imagine, I have always struggled with 'following' instructions.  I was the girl who asked loads of questions along the way.  Why this? Why that?  But this time I had to follow.  So I did, sort of.

It was a grueling 3 days and at 8 months pregnant it was the last place I wanted to be.

I towered over an audience of drillers and offshore technicians, a somewhat tough audience at times.  Our hosts didn't let on to this audience they were guinea pigs.  But anything done in the Gulf of Mexico had the reputation for being the jewel of the Group so it's why we were there. We wanted to test on the content for size and scale and get real feedback.

Oh it was downright AWFUL and at times, VERY PAINFUL!

Failure Failurequote.org

The examples we taught were foreign.  At one point I was forced to walk through a snow storm scenario with a bunch of  good old boys who liked to fish and hunt and rarely caught a glimpse of snow.   I could see the frustration mounting.  All the while, my co-facilitator grew very uncomfortable not knowing anything about the local culture.

He turned to me at one point and said "This is a failure"

He was right. 

The first day we followed the manual, and the second day I decided I'd color outside the lines and do the course they way I thought it should be.

So we turned up that morning and changed the whole thing.  I felt we needed to show that we listened to the Day 1 feedback and made a significant improvement.

Later in the day the hosts decided to tell the audience we were set up to deliver the course a specific way and that it was our choice to change-up the content on the second day.  To my surprise and absolute delight, we entered the room to a standing ovation.  The guys not only applauded us for our resilience, but awarded us with the gift of giving us feedback on both days.  Obviously they favored the latter!  Word travelled fast and we were rewarded with a special recognition for our ability to adapt well.

When I was younger I was a dancer.images

We would practice a routine over and over and over again, and then hold a recital where family and friends would come see us perform.  I learned a lot from my dance instructor.  She taught me you could fall straight on your face, but that the best thing to do was to pick up and keep dancing and then review the films after the recital for form and improvement.

Today I'm a wife, mom, and leader.

I'm not the fastest.  I screw up.  I'm full of flaws.  I screw up openly and sometimes people don't notice.    But when you stink, you have two choices.  

  • You can deny it, keep repeating the same behavior, while secretly choosing to let it hurt you or ...
  • You can own it, keep going, grow wings on the way down and fly.
Feedback is the best gift.Katie Mehnert Marathon Life is a Marathon Pace
  • Take it in stride knowing someone cared to tell you!
  • When you can call your own stuff stinky and make it smell like roses the next time, you're better than pretending it was great.
  • You'll also grow to be wildly respected and people will give you the gift of more honesty.

Next week, my colleague and I take our presentation to the next level and I cannot wait to put our newfound learnings into action.  

Have any stories of when you just simply weren't your best?  Or perhaps you were downright awful? How did you survive?  What did you do to overcome and learn?


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