Kara Redoutey, MBA
Over the next several weeks we will be revisiting the series entitled Mistakes New Leaders Make. Even after a few years in leadership, I’ve found that I still have many opportunities for improvement and still make plenty of mistakes. How can that be? After some growth and experience as a leader, shouldn’t I be well on my way to becoming an expert? The answer is no. It turns out, it’s not a simple feat. Leadership takes time – time for continued growth and learning, time to experience more, time to observe, ponder, improve, and question. We will begin exploring growth opportunities for new leaders, common mistakes we make, and how to move on from bumps in the road to successful leadership.
What are the leadership barriers to doing this?
Before we jump into the barriers to stopping rumination, we should answer the following question: what exactly is rumination? Psychology Today (2010) states that “basically rumination means that you continuously think about the various aspects of situations that are upsetting.” Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? We are supposed to learn from our mistakes and reflect on our opportunities. Taking some time to figure out how we could have done something better is a very good thing, but some of us take it a little too far. We spend far too long over analyzing our mistakes, the could have, should have, would have parts. We are too self critical and it creates a paralyzing response to the mistake we made. We want to be the best. We want to be perfect. Mistakes cause us discomfort and instead of using that discomfort to produce results and find solutions, we allow it to propel us into a lengthy self-dwelling cycle that actually ends up with the opposite of what we are trying to achieve, which is growth and leadership learning AND results.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
Rumination is unhealthy. It doesn’t produce results. It doesn’t allow us to productively reflect and grow on our leadership journey. It wastes time and ultimately, it ruins our leadership experience. Reflection and growth come from reviewing our actions, identifying opportunities, and finding an acceptable solution for the future.
How can you do it?
Allow yourself to feel the pain from a mistake long enough to create discomfort. Then move on. This will aid you in not repeating the same mistake again because you will recall the discomfort, but will save you from the harmful effects of rumination.
Engage in an activity you enjoy. This takes your mind off of the mistake and puts it in a healthier place. Exercising, reading, or other fun hobbies work well.
Ask a mentor or colleague to help you find a solution to prevent the leadership mistake from occurring again. This will give you an opportunity to learn from someone who may have already gone through a similar experience and to find an acceptable strategy to handle the situation in the future, avoiding rumination altogether.