Years ago, I was scrambling to get work in the nonprofit sector. I had just moved back to London, trailing my husband’s job. Someone I’d written about years prior, got me a meeting at a global, high profile charity. I was thrilled.
Too thrilled perhaps. Excitable may be the right word. I went in frothing with ideas, and criticism. I was so candid about this organization’s social media mistakes, it makes me wince. I did this right in front of the people responsible, and their boss.
Not surprisingly, I never heard from them again.
Then there was a regional director of the World Bank. A friend had asked me to help him write a book for the bank. Again, I thought honesty was the best approach, and that I knew best.
I wasn’t concerned with anyone else’s feelings. I just wanted to produce a great book. And so, throughout the course of writing it, I always spoke my mind. When the boss suggested an idea I didn’t like, I’d simply tell him he was wrong.
After a couple of disastrous meetings, my friend gave me some invaluable advice. “Just agree with whatever he says, and then we can go off and do our own thing. When people like the book, he’ll take credit.”
How did I not see that?
Both experiences were mortifying, but I moved on and tucked away what I’d learned. And that’s the trick, of course. Mistakes don’t matter. Doing things differently the next time does.
I finally got it right the other day. I had a kickoff meeting for a foundation I’m helping. Once again, I was the outsider. Someone with a fresh take.
But this time, I was different. I was someone who asked more questions than I answered. I paid respect to the people who had been doing the work longer. I was still frothing with ideas, but was careful not to overshadow others.
In short, I’d learned from past mistakes. In the end, I suspect, that may be the number one key to success.