Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Don't dwell on your mistakes; make the most of your second chances

We fear mistakes because it seems to us that failure is a life sentence - a single failure creates insurmountable limits, in our mind. If you're more than 30 years old, a simple look back should assure you that this is not the case. You've failed a few times, or more than that, and have been able to bounce back. Yet this fear persists.

We forget that for 99% of mistakes you can make, there are second chances. We are allowed to try again - perhaps at the same task, perhaps a different one. But we don't only have one shot at succeeding; we have many.

In another of Adam Bryant's great NY Times "Corner Office" interviews, Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix, discusses his second chance - regaining the CEO job after having lost it once:

There was a time, a small gap, when I lost the C.E.O job. In the June quarter of 2000, we really missed our expectations, and by then I'd been C.E.O. for six quarters and I was learning a lot, especially about working with the board. I had not kept the board informed about what was going on and some of the struggles we were having, and I was trying to carry all of it myself, which is what green leaders do. After we missed our expectations hugely, the board decided we would do a public search for a replacement, and I was demoted to president and senior executive officer. I deserved that because that's part of the game, being held accountable.

So we did a public search for a replacement and we had a candidate, but the board decided they didn't like him. That was about six months in. Then we had a second one, but the board decided that I was actually a viable candidate again. They asked me if I'd be interested in having my title back. It took me about a microsecond to say yes.

Q. So you were able to hit the reset button on the C.E.O. job, but with lessons learned.

A. And what a set of lessons to learn. No. 1: Remember you're a member of the team, and teams can take on big problems. You don't have to carry them yourself. In fact, as C.E.O. you have two teams, your board and management. And No. 2: Communication with the board is really critical to your success because that's how you can get the kind of advice you need to lead a company through hard times.

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