I was sitting at my dining room table working on a keynote presentation when a commotion from my backyard caught my attention. I walked over to the window to look outside and see what was going on.
My then-six-year-old son and his BFF were kneeling on the muddy grass staring at the ground between them. They both had intense looks of concentration on their muddy faces. I couldn’t see what they were doing, but they suddenly startled, looked up at each another, threw their hands in the air, and shouted something with such glee I had to investigate.
I walked outside, but they were so intent on what they were doing, they didn’t pay me any attention. They set up some small robot-like contraption on the ground again, leaned back, and waited for it to do its thing.
It quickly became clear it wasn’t cooperating. It took a few steps and then fell over. Rather than getting frustrated, the two boys looked at each other, simultaneously threw their hands in the air and yelled at the top of their lungs …“Do over!”
They dissolved into giggles and proceeded to do it all over again. I loved their attitude. It was so simple. They were out there, in the mud, failing over and over again. But instead of getting frustrated and giving up, they were having a great time. They seemed to delight in and welcome each “Do-over” opportunity.
If only we adults were the same way. We can be so hard on ourselves sometimes. If we try something and it doesn’t work out the way we hope, instead of delightedly saying “do-over,” we’re more likely to say, “stupid.” Or “what was I thinking?!” or “what a klutz.”
Our mental self-talk can be downright vicious. We are often our own worst critics. Failure is often seen as something shameful, something to be regretted.
Children expect failure and are not deterred by it. For them, it is simply part of the learning process. They know that failure is an opportunity to begin again — more intelligently this time.
We learn absolutely nothing by repeating things we already know. Growth only happens when we get outside our comfort zone and try new things. Posts on ERE are packed with new techniques (and new twists on old ideas). When you try techniques that are different from your norm, they won’t always work perfectly the first time you try them.
That’s when you say “do over.” You reflect on what you did that worked and what you did that didn’t. You then capitalize on and continue what worked and you tweak and fine tune what didn’t.
One of my favorite “do-over” success stories comes from a leader who decided she needed to conduct better interviews (a topic I’ll be talking more about, by the way). She’d tried running an experiential interview — a hands-on interviewing method where the candidate does sample work. However, her first attempt went poorly. The candidate had a visibly frustrating experience and the leader failed to determine whether or not that individual fit the job.
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Did she try again? No, not at first. She gave up on experiential interviews, deciding after just one attempt that they didn’t work for her.
It was only after we discussed a “do-over” mentality that she gave experiential interviews another shot. Her second attempt didn’t go much better than the first. On her third attempt, she started to get the hang of it. After the fourth try she started to see some of the benefits of an experiential interview. Following the fifth, she really started getting the hang of this approach. From then on, she kept getting better at it, and her efforts paid off. After a few weeks, she was able to quickly spot people who ended up being high-quality, long-term hires.
Her comments about this experience illustrate the importance of a “do-over” approach to hiring (or any important initiative for that matter). “I’ve had this lifelong pattern of giving up too soon,” she said. “I’d try something once, it wouldn’t work as intended, and I’d decide it wasn’t for me. Adopting a “do-over” philosophy allows me to look at things differently. Rather than give up, I now see failure as an opportunity to begin again — more intelligently.”
The key to mastering new approaches is to be a coach, not a critic. Instead of telling yourself what you did wrong, focus on how you can do it better the next time.
When you try an idea different from what you’ve done in the past, it probably won’t work perfectly the first time. That’s to be expected. Any new skill takes time to master. Instead of getting upset or impatient with yourself, declare a “do-over.” Simply focus on how you can do it better next time and turn that mistake into a lesson learned.
Be as gentle with yourself. Give yourself credit where credit is due and forgiveness when you make mistake. Then, declare a “do over” just like you would’ve as a kid.