How to Learn to Pivot through Failure


I am reading Kristen Hadeed's book, Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing Everything Wrong.  This book has really helped me reflect the last week on how I've developed my own leadership skills through various failures.

As a child growing up, I have always been a perfectionist.  I had to get perfect grades, and excel in everything I set up for myself as a task.  My first failure hit me hard senior year of high school when I was denied admission to the music school I wanted to attend, to become a concert flutist.  I was devastated.

I entered college my freshman year undecided with the hopes that I could re-audition in the spring for fall entry into the music program.  I studied flute with a doctoral student in the hopes to get better.  In the spring, I auditioned again, and again, another denial.

This was also the time I met my mentor, who brought me in to the field of behavior analysis.  Once I experienced the second failure, I pivoted and focused my attention on becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst after support and discussion with my mentor (who was also a classically trained musician, and worked on that skill on the side).  Looking back at this time, I felt like it was the biggest failure, and I would never succeed in life.  What it really taught me was when we come up against challenges, we need to learn to pivot our direction (much like hiking when you come to a block in the path, or a cliff, you must pivot your direction around or away from it), so that we do not drown in our failures.  This lesson has come up for me time and time again throughout my practice and development as a leader in the field.

Pivoting is important because it helps us to re-focus our energy on a new project, or new skill to develop.  At this stage in my development, I don't look at failures as failures, but rather as "triggers" to pivot to a new idea or project.  

Want to hear more about my story?  Here’s a podcast I did with Coaching for Leaders host, Dave Stachowiak!

Have your own "failure" experience to share?  Leave a comment below!

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Six Books to Shape Leadership Development


*Please Note: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

People often ask for book recommendations, especially when it comes to shaping leadership development.  To assist, I've compiled a list of six books that have shaped my leadership development, in the hope that you will also find them helpful!

1) Pivot by Jenny Blake

This book came for me at a time that I was experiencing a leadership crisis.  I was feeling burned out as a leader, and I needed to figure out how to "pivot" my role in the organization or in my career.  The guidance in this book helped me to structure my daily activities, and create goals with actionable plans.

2) Deep Work by Cal Newport

As a self-proclaimed "multi-tasker," I wore that label as a badge of honor--a behavior that had been reinforced as I moved along in my career.  This book effectively changed that behavior. Newport discusses the benefit of scheduling blocks of time to limit distraction.  Instead of focusing on many "tasks," the blocks of time are guided by your focus on one task at a time that will have a greater impact on your development as a leader. 

3) Good Authority by Jonathan Raymond

This book is probably the only book that I have purchased for people in my organization who I was shaping into leadership positions.  Though Raymond is not a behavior analyst, he illustrates many principles proven through organization behavior management, and illustrates through his stories, the necessities of effective delivery of feedback.  This was incredibly helpful for me as I was developing my staff in their roles.

4) Bringing Out the Best in People: How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement by Aubrey C. Daniels

This book was my first primer in leadership development, as I read it during my Master's program, studying Organizational Behavior Management.  Of particular note, this book was the guiding force behind the "Kudos" system I implemented with my direct reports, to shape their behavior interacting with each other in the workplace.

5) The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni

This book was the book I wish I read when I first entered a leadership position.  Lencioni tells a tale, in a "Christmas Carol"-style to illustrate behaviors to avoid as a leader, and the simple behaviors we should perform while in those roles.  You should also check out the other titles by Lencioni: Four Dysfunctions of a Team and Death by Meeting.

6) Start With Why by Simon Sinek

This book forced me to look at my narrative as I was addressing my staff.  Instead of focusing on statements such as "We need you to..." and "We have to do x or z," it helped me to think about crafting a narrative for my staff when discussing protocols and instructions, to show the larger picture of why we were doing what we were doing.  This was also the book that helped me narrow down a mission statement for my organization, and to use that mission to guide our "daily huddles."

Have any additional books to add?  Leave a comment below!


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