May 2014

Self-Correction Model

Using Mistakes as Opportunities to Learn

All successful people make more mistakes than unsuccessful people. Learn how to become more resilient and get back on the path faster.

It is important to learn how to stay on your path even though you make mistakes. Shifting from criticizing yourself to critiquing yourself is a primary tenet of the learning mindset. As you learn the Self-Correction Model, you realize how much fun learning and change can become. Errors become wonderful learning opportunities and you can have great laughs. An added bonus here is that you’ll learn how to truly measure your progress.

The Sally & Donna Show ended last month with Sally accepting her friend Alex's proposal to help her develop her leadership skills while Donna has just finished writing her credit taking statements for the day. Let's return to them and find out what happens next...


With the determination that has made Sally tops in her field, she vows to herself that she's going to get on top of this leadership stuff. If Alex has bought in, there must be something worthwhile. After all, he's as smart as she is and seems happy. That's more than she can say for herself right now.

Sally is aware that she feels miserable. Everything seems topsy turvy. At least, she reasons, most things. She remembers that her marriage is intact and her relationship with her daughter is solid. She's grateful for both.

After looking at several websites on leadership, Sally turns in for the night. She doesn't sleep well and wakes up tired. She's short with Larry, who reacts quickly and harshly, “What's got into you?”

Sally snaps back, “Nothing!” and stomps out of the house.

Sally stops for coffee. Completely preoccupied, the young woman at the counter asks Sally what she wants three times before it enters Sally's consciousness. Sally is lost in her fears.

“Maybe the conversation with Alex yesterday was crazy. I should just leave,” she thinks to herself. “I have always been thought of as a high performer. This place is crazy. The people are lazy. Maybe I should just leave. This is no place for me to advance my career. I should just leave.”

Sally gets her coffee and drives, as if on auto-pilot. She can't turn off her mind, and it keeps going in circles: “I know I'm smart and good. Well, maybe I'm not as smart as I think I am. Maybe I'm not as good as I think I am, and these people have found me out. Maybe I should leave. I'll just get another job somewhere that I'm appreciated. That's what I should do. Alex is off his rocker. He's talking psycho-babble. He sounds like he drank their Kool-Aid. I'm going to call a headhunter and leave. They're all crazy.”

Sally parks her car and walks toward her office. She realizes that she feels nervous. She doesn't want to see the people who work for her. She certaintly doesn't want to see Tom, her boss. And, to think of it, she doesn't want to see her peers.

Suddenly, she hears someone calling her name. Sally turns to see Paul, the guy who presented his research paper, with Margot, another woman from the team. Exactly the people that Sally didn't want to run into. All smiles, they walk toward her.

“So, how are you doing?” Paul asks. “Our meetings are a bit unusual, aren't they? How did you survive?”

Sally's head is spinning. She wants to run. She thinks of saying, “I think you're crazy. You're all nuts. Why are you so happy? What's wrong with you?” However, she keeps this to herself.

Instead, with difficulty, Sally says, “I'm not sure what to make of it. It certainly isn't what I'm used to. But I'll manage. Thanks for asking. I have to prepare for a meeting. See you later!”

Sally takes off quickly. As she walks, she thinks to herself, “What in the world is happening?” She feels totally at her wits end. She races to her office and closes the door.

“How in the world am I going to get out of this mess?” she asks herself. She considers calling Alex. However, she knows that she'll just yell at him again for getting her into this mess in the first place. And he'll put this leadership mumbo jumbo on her anyway.

Sally flops down on her chair then gets up again. She is clearly agitated. She paces.

“Where did my career go wrong?” Sally asks herself. “Why am I not getting the recognition that I deserve? After all, I've been a top performer.” She is confounded. She doesn't know how to think about this situation.

In the past when she wasn't appreciated, she left. It has always been easy to find a new job. Somebody always sees her value. She knows that she interviews well.

Sally decides that she will start looking to see what's available this afternoon. Just the thought is relaxing.

“That's right,” she says out loud. “I'll find an organization that values my kind of talent.”


Catching up with Donna, we find a very different story...

Donna wakes up feeling well rested and happy. She is excited about her new job and, though she's a bit nervous, is also excited about beginning performance reviews. She remembers her decision to ask Lorin for an onboarding coach. She quickly logs in to the company calendar to see if Lorin has time on her calendar. She does. Perfect. Donna sets up a short meeting with her that day in the late morning.

Donna and her husband work as a tag team getting the children ready for school. Donna says goodbye and notices the lilt in her step as she goes to her car. She must be dreaming, yet she knows she's not. She begins to think about all the changes she's been going through in the last several years.

She's no stranger to hard knocks. Donna's father died when she was 10. As the oldest child, it became her job to help her mother with the household chores as well as the younger children. Donna wasn't able to participate in after school activities since she had so much to do at home. She remembers feeling proud of how much she was able to help her mom. Sometimes she felt sad that she missed a lot of the fun other girls her age were having. Mostly, however, she didn't think about it. She just did everything possible to make her mother's life better.

Just a few years earlier, she and her mother were in a car accident. Donna was hurt badly, as was her mother. While recuperating, Donna started reading books on leadership and personal development. Having nothing but time on her hands, unable to do much or help anybody, Donna began to read voraciously. As she healed, she started taking workshops. By the time she was able to return to work, she felt like a different person.

The accident, which was a horrible event in her life and her family's life, turned out to be the grounds for one of the most important decisions in her life—to develop herself as an authentic leader.

Donna is so deep in her reflections that she doesn't know how she got to work. On her way up to her office, she pokes her head into some of her team's offices and chats for a few minutes. Then, in her own office, she organizes her notes for her first performance review. When Donna feels prepared, she then jots down some notes for her meeting with Lorin about getting an onboarding coach.

Donna has clear visions of the leadership capabilities she wants to develop. She evaluates herself in each competency area so that she can tell Lorin what she hopes to learn. Now she feels ready for the day.

“Bring it on,” she says to herself. “I'm ready.”


Let's step back and analyze the ability of each of these two leaders regarding self-evaluation, metrics, and self-correction:

For Sally, because perfection is her goal, there are no other relevant metrics. She has clear ideas of how she should act, how others should act toward her, and how events should flow. When she is not met with the response she anticipates, expects, and demands, she goes into defense mode immediately. Her pattern starts with blame and is followed by the sour grapes phenomenon, “I didn't want it anyway,” which is followed by retreat. Her only self-correction mode is to do the same thing she has done with more effort.

Donna, on the other hand, has learned the self-correction model. She has developed her capacity to evaluate herself without going into a self-putdown. She is able to take stock of how she behaved and felt before she started a change process, how much effort she put into the desired change, and assess where she is in relation to her goal. Though Donna strives for excellence, she gives herself a margin of error, knowing that she is on the path to success. Her definition of success has changed and no longer means "getting to the goal without any glitches." She knows now that the bumps in the road are part of the learning process and actually make her stronger. Donna is getting better at catching herself when she falls off of the path and it is taking her less time to get back on the path. She feels happy with her progress. The absence of beating herself up is a great relief to her.

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