I don’t know the point in time when making a mistake became taboo, but we live in a pretty messed up world when perfection is expected 100% of the time.

I have been caught up in this at different times in my life, and my experience is that I retreat into caution, and not wanting to push boundaries. Making a mistake is part of learning. Making a mistake is part of pushing boundaries. Making a mistake is part of creativity.

Last Sunday was probably the worst Sunday Night Football game. Ever.

If you didn’t watch the game, it was lost in overtime when the punters kickers for both teams missed what should have been an easy field goal, giving their team the win.

How the coaches handled it showed what true leadership looks like:

In A Lesson in Leadership: 2 Football Coaches, 2 Players’ Mistakes, and 2 Very Different Reactions we gain insight into the mastery of leadership. Into how “you can you build someone up when it counts the most.”

The Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians had these words of advice for his kicker:

Make it. This is professional, this ain’t high school, baby. You get paid to make it.

Contrast that with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll:

[Hauschka] made his kicks to give us a chance and unfortunately he didn’t make the last one. He’s been making kicks for years around here … but he’s gonna hit a lot of winners as we go down the road here.

I love him and he’s our guy.

Let’s guess which player showed up on Monday morning ready to go to work and which one showed up with a hole in his gut wondering if he was going to get fired?

I wonder which player was patted on the back by his teammates and told “It’s a game; shake it off” and which one was shunned or blamed?

From the article’s author:

In contrasting these two reactions, we learn a lot about leadership. The truth is, anyone can fall victim to a misstep in a high-pressure situation.

The question is, can these two kickers come back from their mistakes? Or, by extension, will your team members be able to recover when they slip up?

I’ve had team members slip up and make mistakes. I have slipped up and made mistakes. Legal is a high-stakes industry where mistakes can lose a case. Mistakes can cost a client millions. Mistakes can land someone in jail.

And yet, we’re all human and we make mistakes.

I have worked in legal marketing for nearly 20 years–for several firms–and my experience has been consistent: When a member of my team makes a mistake you see the panic in their eyes. There’s hyperventilating. There is secrecy.

Each and every time my response is: “We all make mistakes. Just don’t make the same mistake twice. Now let’s fix this.” And we move on. If we cannot move one, or the same mistake keeps happening, then we need to have a serious talk.

I could end this post here, but there was this exchange with Tim Tebow and ESPN’s Stephen A this week as well:


It’s the other side of the same coin. Don’t stretch. Do what you do well. Don’t pursue. Don’t strive. Don’t leave your box. Don’t spread your wings.

In a competitive environment, we need team members with attitudes like Tebow; and we need our leaders to lead like Pete Carroll.

UPDATE: Thanks to my LMA husband Tim Corcoran for pointing out my mistake and interchanging punter for kicker. He’s a good leader, so he did this privately. He’s also a good friend, so he did so mockingly. In all honestly, I can talk a good sports game thanks to the Sports Dude, but I really have no clue when it comes down to the details. 😉