How To Use Your Mistakes To Improve Leadership And Business Outcomes

 |  24 November 2021


I drove my 6yo daughter to the doctors this week, pulling up into diagonal parking on the street between two other parked cars.  As I got out of the car, my daughter also opened her door and accidentally knocked the car on her side.  I say knocked because that’s genuinely how it happens – but I have to say I didn’t even realise what had happened until the passenger of said vehicle (the driver was absent) appeared, glowering in front of my daughter…It went down something like this…


Passenger – “She better not have damaged the paint!”


Me: “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise she’d knocked on your car.  Is it OK?” peering at the spot that must have taken the knock.


Passenger: “Your bloody kid hit the car!”


Me: “…!!!”


Passenger:  Uses his finger to wipe the black plastic located above the front right wheel guard… No mark apparent..


Me: “It doesn’t look like there is any damage… and I’d prefer you don’t speak like that in front of my daughter.”


Passenger: “You should have more control of your bloody kid!”


Me: “Excuse me, it was an accident.  If there is no damage, then let’s end it there.”


Passenger: “If you can’t control your kid…you’re a bloody stupid parent!”


Me: Walking away “Sir, I don’t appreciate the way you are speaking to me, you are being rude!”


Passenger: “expletives…blah blah..”


Me: walking away with a rather shaken and teary child….


I get that having your parked car doors knocked or scratched is a shitty deal that’s going to get under your grill.  Having made this mistake previously (and being on the receiving in too many times to count!), I’ve at least left my contact details.  Yep, I’m a “do-gooder”!


Coming face to face with such obnoxious aggression genuinely troubled and upset me.  It troubled me because it was so unexpected.  There was such instantaneous aggression, a lack of care or understanding.  This man’s choice was to blame, deny and make excuses – even when there was no damage.  But, most importantly, it troubled me because the conversation wasn’t about the car.  It was about the “bloody kid” and the “stupid parent”.


Things happen, but it’s your response that determines if the outcome is ultimately positive or negative.  This is the principle practice of “Above and Below the line” thinking and behaviours.


As we walked away, my daughter was upset, repeating what the man had said: “you’re not a stupid parent mummy! I’m so sorry. It’s all my fault…”. Gulp. I could feel my parental protective super-powers kick in.  The “Below the Line” thinking and behaviour we had just experienced had certainly left myself and my daughter with a negative outcome.


I’ll share here what I shared with her.  “That man chose to use words to hurt us rather than talk about how to resolve the situation.  And there was no situation to resolve.  If there had been, I would have genuinely worked it out. We all need to focus on the issue, not the person.”  Her face changed as she started to unpack this information, slowly finding her composure.


It’s brought up a whole lot of curiosity and concern in my soul about the society we are living in right now.  Perhaps that’s for another blog.  So I’ll simply end on this…whatever the challenge or situation, good or bad, how you show up has an impact on the outcome and those around you.


Don’t lose sight of your influence on others. Stay above the line!


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