Ouch, It Hurts to Learn Publicly

growth and learning

Sometimes, it can be embarrassing to learn and grow in front of others. I’ve heard this from many top executives in my career. When you get to the top, you’re considered super-human, right?! Well, it certainly can feel like you need to be because that’s often how others treat you.

One of my more memorable lessons was learned in front of another person, someone who held great power to give me something I really wanted. It was a cool job with a company ranked #1 in its industry. I presented myself in the interview as if I were perfect…ha! This was back when I thought perfection was a good thing. This company, though, was clearly smarter than me. They were looking to weed out perfectionistic people, and I landed myself straight into their candidate junk pile.

Because I wanted that job so badly, my learning was deep — to the point that I have referred to that experience literally hundreds of times. I wasn’t actually told why I wasn’t selected. So, the perfectionist tendency lived on. I got to spend more years re-learning – and in front of many others – how perfection doesn’t serve. Eventually, that “public learning” made a difference.

It’s decades later, and I am now a reformed perfectionist; I don’t need to be perfect (for others or for myself). I do, however, realize there is value in others witnessing my human-ness: I embrace the notion that being human means I live in both constant error and glory, and in front of others. They can see things that I either don’t see or am not ready to acknowledge.

It is clear to me that my growth as a leader depends on staying open and receptive to others; for it is others who help me build my own capacity for infinite learning and growth.

This Week: Ask yourself where you might be hesitant, or feel exposed, in trying out new things in front of others. Embrace those as opportunities to Expand Your Influence by showing your human-ness. If you tend towards perfectionism as I have, ask yourself: “In what areas of my life do I feel the need to be perfect, and what would be at risk if I were not?”

In Next Week’s Post: We delve into storytelling as a way to share a vision.

Subscribe to

Impact Your Leadership

Terms and Conditions checkbox is required.

If you'd like to dive deeper into leadership and all that it means, we invite you to sign up for our insights and tools (they're free).

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Please leave a comment or suggestion for a video you love so others can be impacted by your leadership.

Leave a Comment