Gain insight, resilience, and sustained happiness by building a positive mindset. Click for more info.

My Biggest Mistake as a Leader

Midway through a round of employee terminations, resulting from a company acquisition, it happened. Someone got missed.

My body still tightens up when I remember that moment.

When I think of what I value most – kindness and connection – it’s no surprise that I feel/felt it so viscerally.

And yet, even in the worst circumstances, sometimes because of them, that’s when you learn the best lessons.

What Happened

I arrived at work early along with the other members of the core HR team. We had checklists to complete our tasks and had divided up the workload.

I received a phone call from an employee saying her building pass didn’t work when she tried to enter the office building that morning. Then she reported she couldn’t log on to her computer.

My heart dropped.

I investigated internally and found her name on one team member’s list but not the other. To clarify, I spoke to the department head who confirmed the termination decision. Green light. So I prepared a termination package and then the manager and I conducted the final conversation with the employee shortly thereafter.

The Fallout

Imagine how awful it must have felt to not be able to enter your own office or log on to your computer. What dread she must have felt, knowing deep down that something was amiss.

I’ll never know for sure because she didn’t tell me. She kept a brave face in that moment.

Negative saboteur thoughts abounded within me, although I lacked the tools then to understand them. I couldn’t even clearly articulate my critical inner voice(s). I just knew I felt terrible about what happened.

Saboteur Voices

Now I can identify those voices so let me share what they said:

  • The Judge: How can you treat someone like that? You’re an awful person.
  • The Stickler: If you were more organized – more perfect – this would never have happened. It’s your fault.
  • The Controller: You need to manage every aspect of every termination in order to prevent this from happening. The buck stops with you.

Notice the tone of these voices. They’re not helpful; they’re hurtful. And, ultimately, they only heaped guilt and shame instead of helping me learn from my mistake.

Lessons Learned

In fact, that experience was the catalyst for me quitting that HR role and shifting to project management for a few years, which eventually led to me becoming a professional coach. It all worked out in the end.

My coach training, supportive friends, and lots of reading helped me process my biggest mistake as a leader. I was able to speak from the perspective of my Leader Within – or Sage – not the voice of my saboteurs.

Here’s what my Leader Within said:

  • Stop rushing. That’s when mistakes happen.
  • Find ways to stay grounded so you can self-manage in tense situations.
  • Be human. It’s not about what happens but how you respond to it.
  • Mistakes happen. No one is perfect, including you.
  • Respond with kindness and empathy. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.
  • Separate yourself from your job or company. You are not your job title or company brand.
  • Do your best. That’s what matters.

Blessing in Disguise

My biggest mistake as a leader turned out to be a blessing.

By focusing less on the mistake, because that’s really about ego, and more on the lessons, which revolve around being in relationship with one another, I learned it’s all boils down to connection. And when things are hardest, that’s when you double down.

How I respond in that moment matters more than what happens. Maybe I had to mess up to truly understand that leadership doesn’t require perfection; it just means showing up as my best self. It’s about righting wrongs with compassion and kindness.

You have to be open minded in order to grow. The coaching that Laura gave me opened my eyes to what and how I was doing things and allowed me to see the bigger picture. I am not done yet but I already see the changes in my everyday life.

MM

I think coaching is a great way to help you clear your mind when you get stuck with overwhelming situations or when stepping into changes in your life.

MO

Coaching is life changing. It pushes you outside your comfort zone and challenges your perspectives.  It is highly motivating and the exercises and techniques used are both fun and informative.  I think the main benefits of coaching are to see yourself, others and the world more clearly.  I think coaching is valuable to anyone regardless of where you are in your life or career.

LE

I honestly never thought I’d need a coach. I thought coaching was for CEOs and industry VIPs. I didn’t think it was for the “little guys” (i.e. me). Now, I’m of the belief that everyone – yes, EVERYONE – needs a coach. Coaching has really benefitted me and I’m so grateful to have had that time with Laura. It’s changed my life!

VB

Laura is very patient. She took the time to understand what was causing me to be stuck where I am today and help me build a better vision so I can continue to grow.

MM

I think Laura’s coaching was what I had been waiting for. Laura was so approachable, kind, and open. Her willingness to help and support made a difference for me. I found in her coaching new strategies, ideas, and perspectives that I could incorporate into my goals and objectives that I didn’t see before.

MO

Laura is an incredibly intuitive, positive and caring coach. Her techniques helped me recognize both my strengths and areas I might want to explore as I embark on the next chapter of my career. The exercises she employed were instrumental in providing self perspective and challenging my frames of reference.

LE

Laura is a natural coach. Her probing and compassionate questions helped me learn about myself: my value system, interests, goals and strengths.

LM

Coaching sessions with Laura gave me new perspectives on how to process specific feelings and situations in life.  She showed me how to sit with my emotions, acknowledge them, and then use visualization strategies to move through them.  I now feel more confident and in control of how I choose to walk through life.

CP

From the beginning, Laura put me at ease, creating a safe, open space for me to talk and share freely without fear of judgement. I loved the variety of approaches she used depending on the topic we were working on and it was fun being able to try out things I wouldn’t have considered before! With Laura’s coaching, I substantially grew my confidence in the workplace, overcame fears, dealt with issues I’d been carrying around for many years and, most importantly, learned to value myself and define a path forward into the future.

AG

Laura’s coaching was a breath of fresh air and EXACTLY what I needed at that point of my life. I didn’t realize how impactful coaching was going to be, but by the end of the sessions together, I left feeling refreshed, inspired and genuinely curious about what my future held for me. Because of Laura and her coaching, I believe I became a better person – someone who is more open-minded, someone with a clearer focus, and someone who is willing to explore opportunities and possibilities far more than I ever did before.

VB

I engaged Laura for coaching as I took on an expanded role leading an asset management company in Canada. As a female, I knew I would be a role model and had high expectations of myself. I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

In our first few coaching sessions we worked through exercises that allowed me to reflect on my purpose, leadership style and what mattered most to me. I continue to be grounded by the clarity I achieve in my coaching sessions – allowing me to be resilient and confident when challenges came my way.

OS