In my last post, I wrote about a time when I was viewed as a pathetic failure at work. I got an email (or two) telling me I shouldn’t do that. It makes you look inexperienced, they said. You look fallible.
A few days ago I traded emails with an executive coach. He wasn’t always an executive coach–first, he went through a divorce and the loss of both parents and a bankruptcy. All at once. When he got his head out of the water, he found that the experience had changed him. He felt less arrogant and more empathetic toward the struggles of others. Now, he says, his struggles help him to identify with the CEOs that he coaches on a daily basis. He helps them to learn to listen, be vulnerable and open.
Failures change us. If we allow ourselves to learn from them, we become wiser and stronger. The very scary truth for some people to hear is that I am fallible. Admitting that gives me strength: I don’t always have to be perfect. I don’t need to pretend that I am always successful simply because I am good, or paid by people to create cool things. I am still fundamentally human.
More and more in this world, great brands want an authentic voice–a human voice–writing their copy. Voices of failure and growth are real voices, and audiences identify with them. They are part of a universal story in which we learn from our failures and change how we do things. After my failure at my previous job, I made the decision to think long and hard about where I failed. I found at least one of the biggest reasons, and I’m taking steps to grow myself out of it.
The executive coach was interviewed for a magazine. He told them, “Humble leaders invariably are genuine, kind, open and vulnerable. They listen until they understand. Their honesty and optimism help build a team.”
I’m not the selfie-posting viral type whose big stories last for 15 minutes and disappear into the ether; I’m a quiet leader making real connections for brands to their audiences. Failures are part of my story, and that keeps me authentic. I can handle the fallout email.