Imagine you’re a football coach. You’ve made it to the Super Bowl and it’s the last 30 seconds of the game. Your team is behind by one touchdown and by some miracle, they’re currently on the one yard line positioned to score.
It’s second down and goal, and everyone is looking to you to call the play.
You’ve got the best running back in the league on the field AND you’ve got an amazing young quarterback. Everyone’s expecting you to go to your running back (there’s a reason why they call him “Beast Mode.”) He’s already proven that he can move the ball even in the face of the most ferocious of defensive lines.
But, after considering the odds, you decide to pass.
You stand there holding your breath as the play is executed perfectly…
Then, out of nowhere, a player from the other team comes running up from behind your receiver…
And intercepts the pass.
Now imagine it’s a week later. Commentators everywhere are referring to your final play call as “the worst play call in the history of football.”
And fans, sportscasters, and even some of the players blame you for single-handedly losing the biggest game of the year….
Everyone – from retired coaches to the armchair analysts — believes that he could have made a better decision.
While you spend every waking hour of the day rethinking your call, playing it over and over in your head, second-guessing everything…
…and facing public shame and humiliation everywhere you go.
Although you’ve probably never coached a professional football team, or lost a Super Bowl Championship, you probably know a little something about how Pete Carroll, the coach in our story feels right now.
We’ve all at some point made a bad call.
Maybe you assigned a student a grade that was unfair, or perhaps you falsely accused a student of wrongdoing only to find out that he was innocent after all. Maybe you invested heavily in an initiative this year that’s become a complete failure and you can’t figure out how to back out of it without looking weak. Or maybe you’ve taken a very public stand on an issue only to realize that you’re wrong.
We’ve all been there.
The question now is, what do you do about it?
1. Admit you were wrong. This is the hardest part. But, if you are wrong, you need to own it. Once you do, you’ll immediately feel better.
2. Repair what you can. If you’ve hurt someone, apologize. If you’ve hurt something, try to fix it. Not everything can be restored, but making the effort will go a long way towards helping you and those who’ve been affected by your decision heal.
3. Forgive yourself. No matter how harsh your detractors are, you’re probably your worst critic. Stop beating yourself up. It does no good. Instead, forgive yourself and let it go.
4. Learn from your mistake. Reflect on the situation and derive as many lessons as you can from it. Apply those lessons going forward.
5. Give it time. No matter how bad it looks now, time does heal.
6. Talk about it. Share your mistakes and what you’ve learned from them with others. Not only will it help them learn vicariously through your situation, it also shows that you are evolving and growing which helps people trust you in spite of your past mistakes.
7. Focus on the future. No matter how bad your call was, it’s in the past. Leave it there. Focus on what’s in front of you, grow from your mistake and vow to do better next time.
We’ve all made a bad call or two in our lives. But what I’ve learned is that it’s not so much the bad call that will define you; it’s how you handle it that really counts.