Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein
Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. - Abraham Lincoln
Last Fall, I was working with a team that had hit an impasse: they'd accomplished some of their goals with coaching, but still hadn't quite dived to the depths of their core stuff. Circling, perhaps, but not landing.
Then the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan. Out "it" came, like someone had finally let the raging tiger out of the cage. Anger, frustration, blame, defensiveness, and finally, a shut-down. The coaching session ended without resolution, or a clear way forward. This happens sometimes in change – that we have to step into the chaos in order to find our way out of it.
However, in thinking about their system over the next few days, I realized that as their coach, I had missed an opportunity to name and call out issues. I admitted my failing to them, corrected it (!) and then brought them back to some core work they'd previously done.
When I next met with them, a month later, there'd been a shift in the team: this time, expressing themselves – even in frustration – led to new learning, understanding and opportunity. A way forward. The final sessions I coached them through brought them to truly a new place as a team with increased trust, respect, and functioning.
What I took from this experience was:
- It takes great courage to step into chaos – whether it's your own, or someone else's. Courage not know, not to know where it's going: to be lost, at least momentarily. This is the place of great learning, if you are willing to notice.
- Willingness to step into the messy stuff can lead the way into something new. This wasn't the first time I've been offered this learning – wise colleagues of mine gave me some feedback some years back about my own performance: "When you get messy, you give us permission to get messy, Hanna."
- Breakthroughs come not from being perfect or knowing the answer or the way forward all the time, but from sticking in there, through the mess, anyway. Rather than seeing it as failure, to see the breakdown as an opportunity to review, rewind, reposition, reboot.
What if your failure was an opening for change?
How might you welcome "mess" as a sign of change?