‘I messed up’ – how you turn your messy leadership moments in fruitful team culture

A few weeks ago, I messed up in a team meeting on a Friday afternoon. I was tired of the week. I was at my worst. I was unfair to my own team.

When I took some time on Saturday to reflect on the week, I realized what had happened. During my tiredness, the worst side of my ego took over and I let my own team feel as loosers. When I saw what I had done, I was angry at myself, unhappy and shocked. Instead of building a cool cuture where everyone thrives, one selfish comment attacked so much trust and teamspirit. As I could not call my team on the weekend, I took some notes to apologize on Monday.

Monday came. And inwardly I tried to talk myself out of the apology. “It wasn’t THAT bad.” “Every teamlead is in a bad mood sometime.” “They won’t even remember.” But independent if one of those points is true – I know what kind of leader I want to be and I haven’t been the one on Friday. I knew it. It was time for an apology.

Recalling the reaction of my team, I assume that this situation was new to them: a team lead apologizing on Monday morning. But it was incredible important. Although I had messed up in this one instance, I showed them how ‘messing up’ is handled in our culture. Besides modelling behaviour and shaping the culture, it gives me the right to speak and feedback people in my team if it is necessary in the future.

Our actions speak louder than our words.

The culture we live on a daily basis, is the culture that grows. And this culture is shaped in good, joyful moments and especially in tough moments. Tough moments in business are often tight deadlines combined with huge workload – and mistakes that occure under pressure. This is when our true culture shows up. As we are all human, we might recognize that we are behaving against our very own culture in those pressure moments. What shapes culture, is the way we handle the aftermath.

How are you handling your messy leadership moments?

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