It’s not something you see every day, but last Saturday, in front of a crowd of about 50,000, country singer Miranda Lambert asked for a do-over. She had started singing her new hit, “Vice,” which kicks off with an extremely difficult acapella verse, when she abruptly stopped. Maybe it was because of a few ill-timed screams by fans, or because it’s an emotionally charged song, or because she was performing in the brutal heat. Maybe it was a combination of all three.
Regardless, after pausing, the petite singer asked in her southern drawl for a chance to start again. And rather than issuing a chorus of boos, the crowd cheered, then gave her the quiet (at least, to some degree) she needed to rip out those first few lines. Then, when the guitars picked up, Lambert mouthed “thank you” to the audience, and received a huge applause.
It was a very cool moment to witness, and one that got me thinking about the value of a do-over; of stopping a conversation, a presentation, or even just a thought, then gathering your thoughts, and starting fresh. These are just a few examples of times in which a reset is needed:
- Saying something that’s inaccurate — or maybe just not 100 percent accurate.
- Revealing information that isn’t yet public knowledge.
- Saying anything that may be construed as offensive.
- Starting a conversation you’re not ready to have.
And it doesn’t have to mean saying something that’s flat-out incorrect or damaging; sometimes the words coming out just don’t sound right. Whatever the case, it’s never too late to stop the train, collect your thoughts, and get back on track. Trust me, the people with whom you’re speaking will be much more understanding if you correct your mistake now than if you wait until after the train has derailed.
Sounds fairly simple, right? And yet, for many of us, hitting pause can be very difficult, because it shows a vulnerability we’re not always eager to share. But here’s the thing — it’s that willingness and ability to open up that makes us stronger — as leaders, coworkers, and human beings. In a Forbes article, author and researcher Brene Brown defined vulnerability as “the courage to show up and be seen,” adding that without it, “there can be zero innovation.”
At first I wasn’t sure I understand what Brown meant. But then I thought about the many times I’ve asked CIOs what it takes to foster a culture of innovation, and nearly every time, it’s come down to creating an atmosphere where individuals are encouraged to come forward with ideas; to fail fast, then learn from mistakes (as Bobbie Byrne recently stated). In order for that to happen, leaders must be willing to fail as well.
Gerard Seijts, executive director of the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute of Leadership at the Ivey Business School, discussed this in a recent Huffington Post piece, saying that, “followers want more than a strong leader. They also want to relate to the person in charge. So to be a good leader, you have to be okay with occasionally looking bad, or at least imperfect. You must be able to admit mistakes and accept help from others.”
If anything, your team will respect you even more for demonstrating that you, too, are a work in progress. And hey, if you do need a re-do, at least you don’t have to do it in front of 50,000 people.