When doing it wrong is doing it right

My 12 year old daughter and I have just painted her room. She’s been asking to lose the bright green and pink walls she’s had since she was six for a good year, I reckon.

At the weekend we did it. She gave the walls a speedy wipe. We whizzed a quick brush around the edges of the woodwork where the roller wouldn’t go and then slapped paint on the wall paint, shwish, shwish, shwish. It took about an hour. As I write, she is rearranging her posters, photos and fairy lights against the smart white walls and is as happy as Larry.

Now, I know that’s the wrong way to paint a room. We should have taken down the curtains, unscrewed shelves from walls, prepared woodwork by sanding down and filling in, painted the woodwork before the walls etc etc. Yes, I know. That would have been the right way to do it.

But this time, the wrong way was the right way. If I’d done it the right way, it would never have got done. I would never have got round to such a major decorating job. She would have waited and waited for the bedroom of her dreams which was just one with bright white walls.

I find in my coaching with third sector leaders and managers that the wrong way is often the right way. Like with the room painting, the wrong way often means something gets done ‘well enough’ on time, instead of perfectly three weeks late. The great is the enemy of the good, and all that. I see this a lot with my clients, often high flyers who are plagued by perfectionism.

Celebrate mistakes

Learning from our mistakes is another great way in which wrong can be right. For instance, one of the best ways to learn how to give a great talk to a bunch of supporters – as one of my coaching clients was doing this week – is to get it wrong, ask for honest feedback from a trusted ally, and use that learning to get it right (or ‘righter’) next time. Mistakes can be a cause for celebration.

Some of my clients live in real fear of doing things wrong. I encourage them to see that if they’re too anxious to get things wrong they will never learn and grow. It’s hugely empowering to be wrong and then improve. After all, getting it right first time is just good luck, and teaches, well, not much.

(I hope it goes without saying that there are some big mistakes that cannot and should not be celebrated, and some situations that are just plain wrong no matter how you look at them. An obvious example of that would be the stories that have been coming out of Oxfam and elsewhere in recent weeks. My hope is that these saddening relevations don’t stymie bold, imaginative risk taking as we look for better ways of doing things in our sector.)

Innovation means braving being wrong

Getting it wrong is an important step on the road to coming up with innovative or radical ideas. You know that Einsten quote, “I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.” It’s about being brave enough to try things, be wrong again and again and again so that you can be right, eventually.

Over to you

Is there anything you’ve been agonizing over in your desire for it to be perfect? What could you allow yourself to do ‘wrong’ so that you can move forward, learn and improve? I’d love to hear your thoughts around this, and whether the idea of being ok with getting it wrong feels empowering or terrifying to you!

What next?

If you need someone to help you get comfortable with making mistakes and then learning from them, call me on 0208 772 7808 (or 07958 501 427) or drop me an email here. I’d be delighted to give you a no-cost, no-obligation Discovery Session to see how coaching could help you move forward.

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