I can’t say for certain since I’ve not seen him work, but I think he’s probably a pretty good manager. He was sharing with me his challenge to break the habits of management he learned from his mentors and replace them with new ones. He’s recognized that the old way won’t work with his younger team.
He’s struggling to make the change. But, as he said to me, “It’s really hard to get it right all the time.”
That’s not true. It’s actually impossible to get it right all the time.
Being perfect shouldn’t be the goal. Continual progress is the key. And perfection is the enemy of progress.
I encouraged my friend to cut himself some slack. I also shared with him a lesson that my mentor, Cy Wakeman, shared with me as a young manager.
She used to tell me to “take a mulligan” when I needed it. For those of you who aren’t golfers, a mulligan is essentially a free do-over when you hit a bad shot.
As managers, we are going to get stuff wrong. We over-react. We get impatient. We say the wrong thing. It happens.
The important thing is what you do next. When you realize you got it wrong (or someone generously points it out to you), take a mulligan. Here’s how that sounds.
“Hi Jenny. I asked to meet with you because I realized that I really didn’t handle our conversation yesterday very well. I’m sorry about that. I jumped to some conclusions that were not fair to you. I’d like to try it again.”
Yes, you do have to be willing to admit mistakes and say you are sorry. Assuming you can get over that hurdle, being willing to do this will change your relationship with your team.
When your team sees you do this, it reinforces that you really care about them and about being a good manager for them. Plus, the fact that you will admit your own mistakes will help build trust. You will also model behavior that will help people them be less afraid of making mistakes, which helps free them to perform at higher levels.
Cut yourself a little slack. Give yourself a mulligan when you need it.
But wait, there’s more….
While this approach is really powerful at work, it’s even more powerful in your personal relationships. As my oldest son was going through his teen years, there were several times when I over-reacted and flew off the handle at him. After I cooled off, I realized in that my response was far out of scale with the offense that triggered it.
So, I would give myself a parenting mulligan. I’d sit down with my son and apologize for over-reacting and instead have a conversation with him about what happened. This ensured that the right message was communicated. And, it strengthened our relationship.
Be generous in granting yourself mulligans, particularly in the relationships that matter most. Humans are irrational, emotional creatures, who have a tendency to speak from emotion and later regret it.
When this happens, give yourself a do-over. Apologize and ask for a chance to try it again.
Forgive yourself. Take a mulligan. Change your life.