How to recover from your mistakes #LikeABuilder


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 173. 

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Hey Builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson. And today we're going to talk about something that a lot of us don't like to talk about me included.

We're going to talk about what happens when you make a mistake. Now, most of us hate making mistakes. I know I do. And as hard as I try, I still make them we all do. And so I thought it would be a good idea for us to talk about how to recover when you make a mistake and how to do it like a builder. Now before we jump into that, though, I have a couple of things I want to share with you. 

First of all, Today is an exciting day because today is the day that you can start getting your tickets for our next builders lab. Now our next builders lab is coming up very shortly. In fact, we're going to be having it January 30, through February 1. And if you know anything about Bill, just lab, you know this tickets go fast. So today is the first day you can get your ticket. And all you need to do to get your ticket is you need to go to mind steps builder's dash lab that's mindset

Now a couple of things to think about if you're thinking about coming to builders lab, we have found that we get more engagement and more breakthroughs at builders lab when we do a virtually and so even though a lot of people are gathering and coming back together. We're keeping builder's lab virtual for now, because people are interacting more in the virtual experience we have really honed in on how to make that virtual experience a 360 degree experience. And so when we considered whether or not we were going to go back to a live event, and maybe someday we will, but right now, the virtual event is working and it's allowing us to reach more people to help people to get more interaction, including more interaction with me, and helping people to get more interaction with each other. This is not your sit and get zoom class people are like oh, I don't want to be on zoom all day I get it because I've been in some trainings where it is excruciating. But we do things differently when we're doing builders lab because at builders lab, you you We start out the experience before you even before the day even starts before you even get to build his lab we we send you a box and in that box are are all kinds of things and they're all wrapped up and and we don't open everything at once we opened the box inside the boxes inside the box over the course of the three days were together so there's always something new to open. And we see this as a truly 360 degree experience which means that we cover all the senses we have feast for the eyes and for the ears and and and for your for your tongue and so we were looking at all of your senses, things that are tactile that you can touch things that you can feel and so we're doing everything we can to make this an amazing experience and one of the reasons why people like it so much is that they don't go anywhere.

So you can do this from your home, you can do this in your office. 

It's a great way for you to get an experience that that that is a truly you know valuable and meaningful professional development experience. But you don't leave your family you don't have to you know once once a day is over you can go have dinner with your family or if you don't have a family you can go you know do the things that you want to do in your home your home you don't have to leave and sit in a hotel and try to figure out okay, where we're having dinner tonight and all of that Listen, I love to travel more than than most you know I've spent the last almost 20 years traveling so I you know I've know that it's nice to get away and and get an you know have an away experience. But this experience is can become even more meaningful because you're home you can come you get that you get to meet other people you get to interact with other people you're learning but you're not just you know taking notes all day you learn something and then we you know immediately have you apply it to your schools. so that when you leave, you have tools that you can actually use immediately in your school.

And the nice thing about being home or add in your office is that a lot of people will, you know, go to builders lab finished the day, and then you know, drop by their office first thing in the morning, take something and learn the day before and immediately put it into place the next day. So it's in your, in your office, you have you know, your tools, your data, everything's in front of you. And so you can access your material, and we can comb through it together to help you apply what you're learning immediately. So it is truly a very different experience, even though it's virtual. And I want to invite you to join us at builders lab. So again, all you need to do to get your tickets and they are the ticket sales are open today is to go to mind steps Alright, let's dive into today's topic, which is all about how to recover from mistakes. 

Now, you know, we've all made them. 

I remember being an assistant principal and in charge of the master scheduling, and I had calculated things down to, you know, just to the, to the 10th of a position, you know, done everything I can to make sure that I was doing my calculations correctly based on the numbers the district gave me. But it's my first time doing the master schedule, and I misunderstood one of the numbers. And so I calculated an extra point six of a position. And so when I submitted the master schedule, early, one of the first people in the district to do so I might add, I was so proud of myself, you know, I've done it, I've got the master schedule, it's beautiful, it's airtight. My associate superintendent, the one who was in charge of the schools in my regions, my regional my area superintendent came and paid me a visit at the school and said Your master schedule is over 5.6 of a position. And I said, But you know, I've run the calculations, and I showed them the calculations I ran. And he pointed out my error. That meant that I had to completely redo the master schedule, I was so proud to get in early. And now it's going to mean I had to get in late is going to put the school in alert. My principals looking at me because he trusted me with the numbers.

I mean, I was really messed up. And then the first thing that happened was I felt that that knot in my stomach, you all know what I'm talking about that that knot, that sinking feeling that that kind of grips and grapes, your whole stomach and you feel horrible. Then my face flushed hot, I was embarrassed. I was blushing. Here. I was trying to kind of prove that, that I knew what I was doing that they had made the right decision by hiring me as an assistant principal in this building. But I was principal material that one day, I would be a principal and be a good one. And here I was having made a horrible mistake. I wanted to hide under a rock. Have You Ever Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like you make a mistake? And it's not like a just a little you know, like a rounding error? You know, like a small thing. It's a big mistake. It's a costly mistake. And everybody's watching everybody's looking at you. Oh, in that moment, what do you do? I'll tell you a little bit later how that story ended, and what I learned from it. But I want to stay here for a moment.

Because what a lot of us do is we immediately start beating ourselves up inside.

How could you be so stupid, I can't believe I missed that. And so we immediately start beating ourselves up, we immediately start you know, castigating ourselves and fussing at ourselves and and being harsher to ourselves than we would even be to another person. And then the next thing we do is that we start to tell ourselves a story about how like the worst possible outcome, right? So it starts out how can I be so stupid, and the next thing is, now I'll never get a principalship now no one will respect me. Now they'll think I'm an idiot. Now, you know, no one will listen to me now the wish they have the other person now there'll be sorry, they hired me. And we immediately start to catastrophize Am I saying that right? catastrophize. I hope I'm saying that right? We immediately start to turn this one mistake into a catastrophe. And then if we're not careful, we become completely demoralized. And so we beat ourselves up. We've turned this mistake into a catastrophe. And then we become depressed. We lose our energy. We are spark our vam our vigor gone. And we just feel defeated. All over felt that way. I wish that I could protect you from that feeling because it's horrible. But I can't, because we're human, we're fallible, we're all going to make mistakes. And a lot of us are so worried about feeling that way that we've stopped taking risks.

You know, many of you listen to this podcast every week, and you're like, Yeah, build a ship. That's right, that's the thing I need to do. And you may even give it a half hearted attempt to start, you know, I'm gonna make a vision for 100% of my students. But then that feeling of of making a mistake, that that thing we go through stops us, because what if I don't get to 100%, I'm gonna have that knot in my stomach, when, after three years, I posted my numbers, and we're not at 100%. And I said, we were gonna get there. What if What if I don't get to 100%, people are gonna look at me differently, I'm gonna feel like a failure, nobody will ever believe me, or trust me, again. And so the fear of feeling, the way that we feel when we make a big mistake, keeps us from taking the kinds of risks that you need to be able to take in order to build something better for students. So you play it safe. Because our job stops being about moving students forward, and starts being about avoiding making mistakes. And if that's you right now, I want to tell you that you have put yourself into a prison, that is going to be hard to escape from, if you if you continue to keep building those protective walls around you. Not only are you putting yourself in a prison, you're locking yourself in a prison, you are cheating the world of the gift, you have to offer the world and that's criminal. We all make mistakes, it doesn't feel good. I don't like it. I don't want to walk around making mistakes every day. But when I make a mistake, then I have to step outside of the immediate feeling of shame, and blame and judgment that I put on myself. A lot of times it's not even other people, I put it on myself, I have to step outside of that and figure out how I'm going to recover because I remember once my uncle gave me some good advice that I think about often.

It's not the mistake that matters as much as what you do next. 

And that's what I want to share with you today. If if you're a builder right now, and and and you are either in the midst of making a mistake, or you're terrified that you're going to make a mistake. I want you to know that builders see mistakes differently, because it's not the mistake that matters. It's how you handle the mistake that makes a difference. Remember, we're all going to make mistakes. Nobody can avoid a mistake, I don't care how much you try to protect yourself from making mistakes, you will make one and often you'll make a mistake in the in the in the process of trying to avoid one. We can't avoid mistakes. But the difference between builders and everyone else is how is what we do next.

You see most people when they make a mistake, they they do a couple of different things when we teach about this a builders lab we call it the victim loop in the accountability loop. It's not something I invented it's something that one of my mentors any any Hammond Pratt shared with me and allowed some allows me to teach it a builder's lab and it's really something that was designed by a gentleman named Mark Samuels son. Get Samuels son. I hope that's right. It might be Samuels. Get Marcus Samuelsson is a chef, y'all. It's always about food with me, right, Marcus Samuel. And it's the you can google it victim loop accountability loop. But when people make mistakes, a lot of times in the process of trying to you know, kind of hide from those mistakes, they do a couple of different things. The first thing that most people do when they make a mistake is they try to ignore the mistake or get other people to ignore the mistake. So they just well, you know, whatever, and just try to move on and you know, just kind of ignore the fact that they've made a mistake and hope that nobody notices.

The second thing that happens is a lot of times people when they make mistakes, they go into denial. No that wasn't it, you know, like I could have when I met with my associate superintendent said Well, no, your numbers are wrong. You know, that's not it. That didn't make a mistake. It's not my mistake, you know, go into denial.

The third thing that can happen is that they can blame other people for their mistakes. Well, the district had given me Right numbers or if you if you if if someone saw it just done their job that I wouldn't have be up here right now making this mistake and dealing with this, or if the parents or the students, you know, we blame other people.

The fourth thing that could happen is we rationalize the mistake, this is the thing that I have to watch out for the most because I am a very good rash analyzer. And a lot of times I can take something that's a mistake, and I can start rationalizing Well, I mean, of course, I would make that mistake, I was tired or, you know, I'm new at my job. And so I just didn't know. And basically, what you're doing is you're making excuses for the mistake, rather than dealing with the mistake.

The next thing that often happens is some people resist the fact that they made a mistake. So resistance is different than denial. Denial is no I didn't make the mistake. resistances I made the mistake, but And so you kind of instead of dealing with the consequences of the mistake, it's like, you know, yeah, I made the mistake, and what were you going to do about it.

And then the last one is that people try to hide their mistakes. I remember once we had someone working at mine steps and things were not getting done. And so we were talking to her about, you know, like things not getting done, and things would get better for a while, and then they get worse. And then one day, we were looking, she was not in the office, and we're looking for something on our desk. And we found this pile of things that she was hiding, because she was terrified that she hadn't done them, or they hadn't been done correctly, or she didn't know how to do them. And so instead of coming to us for help, she just hit it, and it was creating more problems than solving them. So So that's an example of hiding, right?

Typically, when people make mistakes, they do one of those six things.

They ignore it, they deny it, they blame other people, they rationalize, they resist, you know, dealing with it, or they hide their mistakes. But builders are different builders realize that mistakes are inevitable. And it doesn't matter. The mistake, what matters is how you deal with it. So what builders do is builders, instead of avoiding the mistake of beating ourselves up about the mistake, what we do is we say okay, let's allow ourselves a moment to feel what we feel, right? Because you got to deal with that.

But then afterwards, how do we recover from the mistake and the first thing we do is we take accountability, we recognize that a mistake was made. And then we own our mistake. And then here's the really important part. We forgive ourselves for making a mistake. A lot of times, you know, we stay in the beat up mode. Uh huh. Yeah. And I can't believe I did that I'll never do that again. And that traps you that keeps you in prison, right? You need to forgive yourself. A lot of times, we speak to ourselves in ways that we would never speak to another human being. And we have to exercise the same grace towards ourselves, that that we extend to other people, and we help other people extend to us.

So builders, don't skip that step. We forgive ourselves. So we recognize who made a mistake, we own the mistake. We forgive ourselves for making the mistake. We examine ourselves and the situation to understand how and why we made the mistake. And and so that we don't continue to make the same mistake. We learn from the mistake. And then we take action to fix the mistake. I'll go through those steps again, recognize you made a mistake, own it, forgive yourself, examine and understand how the mistake happened, learn from that mistake, and then take action to correct that mistake.

So back to my story earlier, when he pointed out to me that I had made a point six position mistake. I was mortified. So the first thing he did was I had to recognize that I had made the mistake. And once he showed me I realized where I had gone wrong. So I talked to him about it. I said yeah, okay, so now I can see when I was thinking this, this is how I was reading the numbers. I didn't realize that it was this way. I now see where the mistake was made. And then the next thing I did was own it. I said, you know, yeah, I did this. I thought I was doing it one way. I now realize I was doing another way. Yes, I am over and it's my fault. I can't see any. You know, I made that mistake. silently. I forgave myself and then had to continue to try to forgive myself. And then I started thinking about, okay, how can I avoid making mistakes like that in the future? And we talked about that a little bit and I lead that conversation. I said, Okay, so in the future, what I've, you know, what I need to do is X, Y and Z. And then I said so Well, here's what I've learned from this, I've learned a better way of reading the numbers. You know, when he saw what I did, he learned that I had my mistake was exact so wasn't negligence. It was just a misreading of the numbers. And then I said, Okay, well, I'm gonna have to redo the master schedule. And so I need to take another look at it. And I started to take action. And after going through that, here's what my boss did. He said, Listen, your master schedule is airtight. And if you have to go back and correct it, in order to address this mistake, you're not going to be able to do the things that you're doing in your master schedule. And at that point, we were doing our master schedule in a way that aligned with our vision, mission and core values. So the master schedule, I'd worked very hard to create a schedule that supported the vision, mission and core values of our school. And he knew that he could see that and he said, if you if I make you redo it, you may not be able to accomplish what this master schedule accomplishes. So here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna give you an extra point six position this year only. And then you will have between now and the next semester scheduling season, to figure out how to do the same thing that you're doing this year with a schedule with point six less of a teacher next year. So my mistake that could have been mortifying that could have that could have, you know, made me look like an idiot, because I owned that mistake, like a builder, because of all the other things we were doing in the school to move us toward that bigger vision, mission and core values, like a builder, that mistake afforded us a point six extra position that we would not have been able to get any other way. And instead of looking like an idiot to my principal, I ended up being a hero, because we were gifted an extra point six of a position. Now, will all of our mistakes turn out that way? No. I mean, that's a great story, and I'm happy to share it with you. But it may not always have such a happy ending, where you know, the you know, you get gifted a point six extra position. 

But when you approach your mistakes, like a builder, when, when you recognize you've made the mistake, when you own that mistake, when you forgive yourself for making that mistake, when you self examine and learn from that mistake, and then take action to recover from that mistake, three things are gonna happen.

The first thing is that you're going to learn a lot. 

Some of some of the biggest and most important lessons I've had in my life have come on the heels of a mistake. So you're going to learn something that's going to make you a better builder.

The second thing is going to happen is that you're going to earn the respect of your colleagues. Because remember, it's not that you made a mistake, we all make mistakes. It's how you recover from a mistake that's going to set you apart. If you do it, right. Everybody's watching, they're the people who are actually involved in the mistake. And then there's that silent audience and you don't know who those people are. But you earn their respect because of how you recover from that mistake, that helps them trust you more, that helps them believe in you, that helps them believe that you mean what you say that, that you're not going to do any harm when you can help it. So you're going to earn the respect.

And the third thing, and this is the most important thing is that you will create an opportunity to turn that mistake until blessing. Now, it may be that you get a point six position, maybe it may be that you as a result of making that mistake and recovering from that mistake, develop humility. Maybe the story of what you learned from that mistake will become a story that you will share over and over and over again, that will encourage other people. Maybe the the way that you recovered from that mistake helped you realize some holes or or gaps in your system that you now can work to fill so that that mistake doesn't happen again, which means the whole system gets better. But if you take every mistake and you approach it from the perspective of a builder, remember, one of the things that makes you a builder is your willingness to take anything that life hands you any material and you use it to build.

Yeah, there's old saying, I love this, you know, I take the bricks other people throw at me and use it to build something better. That's what you're doing with your mistakes. If you can stop trying to avoid mistakes, recognize that they're gonna happen, you know, don't go running after mistakes and just say, Well, what's gonna happen, let me just make a mistake, but recognize that mistakes are going to happen. And when they do, turn those mistakes into opportunities to make you better, to make everyone around you better to make your organization better, that you never have to be afraid of making a mistake again, because as I always say, when you're a builder, even when you lose, you win.

So if you find yourself terrified about making mistakes, because you're worried about how you're going to look or you're, you're worried that you're gonna, you're gonna mess things up or or you're worried that that that you'll lose the respect of your staff, or you just hate making mistakes like I do that I want you to know that you don't have to be afraid of mistakes. Because it's not the mistake, that that that matters as much as how you recover from the mistake. And if you do that, like a builder, then you can recover from mistakes in a way that make you and everybody around you in your organization better.

So my challenge for you this week is to start embracing your mistakes. And I know that sounds weird, like nobody wants to make mistakes. I'm not saying go just become a mistake prone person. But instead, when you have the opportunity to when you make a mistake, embrace that as an opportunity to turn that mistake into a blessing. Because you dealt with that mistake, like a builder.

I'll talk to you next time. 

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at Buildership University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. You'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join Buildership University. Just go to and get started writing your school success story today.

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