I was blowing it BIG TIME!! I had too many things on my plate. The big event was coming up. I was trying to do everything but yet I was distracted; I wasn’t doing a great job of delegating. People were waiting on me to do certain things but I wasn’t getting to them. They were frustrated that the things weren’t getting done but the worst part was that I wasn’t communicating that I needed help. The walls were caving in and I was trying to hold them up even while my arms were still full. I was in full-on Samson mode.
Samson-mode is not a great place to be. (If you’ve never heard the term ‘Samson-mode’ before, I made it up based on the Biblical character, Samson, who tried to solve every problem until his death with only his strength instead of truly leading) When you are there and things aren’t going right, not only do you try to do things yourself, but your first instinct is to look for things/people to blame for what is going wrong. I was looking. I was searching for SOMETHING! I was thinking about people’s attitudes and why they had them. I was asking the question internally, “Well, if they have a problem, why don’t they come to me instead of mumbling?”
I was spending time looking around for a way to get the focus off me. But I wasn’t looking for a solution. I was totally bungling this thing. If you were watching me, I was really giving lessons on how to bomb at leadership.
Here are some of the lessons:
1. Don’t ever admit when you’re failing – I was so wrapped up in trying to get everything done and yet so distracted that I didn’t want to see that things were falling apart. My eyes could see it but my ego wouldn’t allow my brain to translate it.
2. Keep trying to fix things by yourself – Samson and Superman were strong. And I was both of them. I could do it on my own. I didn’t need help. Some of the distracting things in my life would soon come to an end and I would be able to do better. I was a leader. I was THE leader. I would get it together.
3. Look for someone or something to blame other than you – Of course, when London bridge is falling, you’ve got to go searching for the crack. It’s not you. There’s just something wrong in the foundation. The architect miscalculated. The contractor used the wrong materials. The workers had bad attitudes and didn’t check the details. It’s not you. It’s them!
4. Get upset when someone else tries to fix things – The event was coming up and someone else stepped in to organize some things that I was responsible for. I didn’t say anything out loud but inside, I was a bit offended that they just did it without saying anything to me or even asking my approval. The only reason I didn’t say anything was because I knew it needed to be done. But, I was still annoyed.
5. Isolate yourself from your team – Tell yourself that you need to think and the people are just crowding you. You need to get away and cut off communication. You need to be on your own to solve this thing. You just need a little time and space.
6. Keep going and never stop to assess the situation – If you keep banging your head against the wall long enough, there is going to be a hole in the wall. Forget the fact that you have a headache. You’ve just got to keep on banging against it. The brick wall that is 15 feet thick will eventually give. Keep using your skull as a hammer.
7. Throw your hands up and quit – OK. This one I didn’t do. But I’ve seen resignations, hands thrown up, or just flat out disappearance when things aren’t going well. This is a great technique for bombing as a leader.
Fast forward a bit. The event went ok because I had some other determined leaders in the organization who were not about to let it fail. But, I had to look in the mirror. I called my team together and apologized. I let them know that I messed up and I knew it. It was hard! If apologizing comes easy to you then it isn’t sincere. It was difficult to summon the strength to make the meeting happen, then walk in to say I blew it. It was even harder to say I blew and not be able to place even some of the blame somewhere else. (You know, the whole I-bit-the-apple-but-the-snake-made-me-do-it bit)
With the apology came a plan and with that plan a stronger team. With that stronger team, came a stronger, more committed, more determined leader…one who had screwed up and was now moving forward.