We have all been guilty of this when writing a report, teaching a class, designing a research proposal, writing an evaluation, and more- all bad.
We can learn from bad examples shared by others. Teaching this past semester, I noticed that some of the first students to post their assignments to the online discussion board would set a bad example, a precedent for others to follow. Students posting assignments later would second guess themselves, wonder if they had the assignment all wrong, and in some cases revise their original assignment in a bad way- to match the first bad examples posted by their fellow students.
This happens in our work constantly. But the people sharing bad examples are not students, they are policy makers, leaders, researchers, evaluators, public health officials, teachers, and more. As students the implications of a bad assignment are a bad grade, and maybe some disappointment. But as we move out of the student mode and into the world of research, evaluation, policy making, knowledge creation, and public health- the stakes are so much higher. Sometimes our bad examples are devastating and irreversible.
What is the worst bad example you have shared with the world? And what did you do to fix it?
I have lists of bad examples lodged in my long-term memory that do not easily disappear. From leading meetings in the worst way to speaking out of turn at the most inopportune times. I have written and published evaluation reports that missed the mark and presented research findings that transposed values to an audience of 200 people. I have loaded slide decks up with horrible figures and images, said um 100 times between words in 2 minutes, and failed to clearly communicate expectations to the students I serve, the team I work with, and the clients I wish to please. There are more.
But we must remember that our bad examples and memories are not all that bad. There is something freeing in the idea that we can talk openly and learn from them rather than hide, cover-up, defend, and ignore the fact that we are human.
We cannot lead with the perfect example every time, but we can be gracious, admit our mistakes, and shortcomings, make amends, and provide clarity when possible for all mankind.
The next time you fail in a big way, or lead by the worst example, don’t sweat it. Remember this advice.
#1 Don’t worry about what other people think.
Make the mistake, be a bad example, and look like an idiot.
# 2 Share mistakes freely and abundantly for the infinite game.
If you are a leader, create space for bad examples, expect them and learn from them. One of my favorite thought leaders, Simon Sinek, talks about how to lead the infinite game – it takes leaders, and people creating a space for bad examples and mistakes,
I can guarantee you that my worst bad example will not be repeated. How about yours? That’s the beauty in a bad example, we learn from them and move on.
It's time for the infinite game.