I always seemed to wind up working for people who looked out for me
and were willing to give me second chances. Even as I griped about my
managers and blamed them for many of my downfalls, I was still asked to
go with them as they changed jobs within my company. In a corporation employing thousands of people, I had many years in which I seemed to work for people willing to give me second chances at a time in my career when I thought I was making too many mistakes. I thought, at times, that they were protecting me. What I found was that these special managers were not protecting me—they were willing to give me a second chance because they knew my strengths better than I did. Over the years, as I gained confidence and learned more about the business on my own, they saw my maturity even before I did. The people who gave me a second chance knew I would give everything I had for the business, and knew I was learning from my mistakes. Additionally, I was learning to own up to my mistakes and was making it an active practice to teach others by sharing what I had learned from my lessons.
In one of my first positions managing managers, I was new and naïve
to the role. I was previously a micromanager and I had stayed steadfast to
personnel policies. When I should have been a level higher than where
I was in order to manage managers, I was really a glorified version of a
manager because I knew the technicalities of the business but did not
understand how to manage it.
My manager invested his time with me, as I was new to the role. He
had a certain tone he used when I made mistakes, but sought to make
them teaching opportunities. I still couldn’t break out of the glorified
manager mentality, even though I was supposed to be a level higher. Mistakes
were made, and we both felt I was not coming up the learning curve
quickly enough. However, he made the effort to make me better and gave
me opportunities even though I was convinced I had not reached his
expectations. When he left the department, I appreciated his time and
dedication, and told him I would continue to make the effort to improve.
I was a little surprised when I got a call to join him in his new department.
I had previously worked in that department and could bring my
job knowledge. But why would he want me when he knew exactly what I
was—and was not— capable of? I’m now convinced that that was why he
made the call to me. He knew exactly what I could and could not do, and
he still saw the potential.
I thought then that I was still too naïve to truly lead the department,
since I needed to develop my own confidence level. I began to think that
I was being harder on myself about being perfect than I needed to be, but
I still lacked confidence. I was surrounded by tenured peers who I let take
control of meetings and drive the conversations. My confidence was not
growing, but my frustration was.
We used to have an annual event that was supposed to be fun, I did not engage in the event as much
as I should have. My avoidance of the event, which was supposed to
include tasteful practical jokes, only caused more unwanted attention
directed my way. As a result, I became an unwilling target. I felt an obligation
to defend myself and my team and went on the offensive halfway
through the month, after giving in to the pressure to participate. My
team and I devised some creative practical jokes that walked a fine line
of professionalism and ultimately landed me in hot water with Human
Resources. I pushed the limits out of frustration rather than simply playing
along from the beginning.
Whatever frustrations I had with the event remained bottled up
until my manager had to sit me down and explain his concerns about my
actions. I let it all out, including my disdain for the event, my growing
disrespect for my peers, and the fact that I felt forced into doing things
I was not comfortable with. I came to the realization that I was the only
one accountable to make the decision to do what I had done. I didn’t
think through the unintended consequences and the impact I would have
on my team and my peers. I vented and he listened, then we had a phenomenal
conversation. The conversation was straightforward and should
have occurred prior to allowing the frustration to build up.
As much as I was embarrassed that we had to have the HR discussion,
I needed it. I maintained my job with a solid slap on the wrist, and
learned some lessons. However, I was not convinced that I would ever
work for this person again, since it was a pretty big mistake in my eyes
relating to people management.As is the nature of our business, he moved on to another department.
I received another call six months later. He wanted me to work for him
again in a department that was full of newer managers. I jumped at the
chance because I wanted to prove myself to him, and I saw an opportunity
to teach all of my new peers to avoid my past mistakes relating to
people management. I saw my chance to give back and be the leader I
wanted to be. For three months, I was able to accomplish this and a lot
more. I felt like I had made a name for myself in this new department and
that I was there making a difference. I was asking questions and driving
the business. My questions landed me in a three-month task force that
lasted for over two years. Guess who joined me after I left his department,
two days later? You guessed it—he moved to my new department as my
manager, again. He apparently had had some inkling as to his next move
and wanted me to be there with him. He knew exactly what he was getting,
and he seemed pretty happy to know who had his back.
Through my career, I’ve sometimes perceived that I’ve been in the
wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes I’ve felt that I’ve been in
the right place at the right time. I was learning to go with the flow and
learn from my mistakes. I also learned to give second chances. As a perfectionist,
I know that no one, including myself, is perfect. We can all
strive to do our best. I have always been appreciative of people willing
to give me tough feedback, even when I didn’t think I wanted to hear
it. I became a manager known for openly sharing my mistakes to help
others. In fact, a few times when I thought my people were holding back
out of fear of making mistakes, I started a regular event in our weekly
staff meetings to share our “MOW: Mistake of the Week.” We shared what
we had learned through the week and found that we all made mistakes.
We were willing to take calculated risks, work together as a team, and be
more creative. I now actively recruit people I know have made mistakes,
who are willing to own them and learn from them. I have found that giving
people second chances only strengthens the team and the individual’s
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Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
It is the little changes that make the biggest changes.
Thanks a lot for sharing!