Check me out on a bad day

It’s fairly easy to be a good leader, team member, and human being on a good day. But how you turn up on a bad day really defines you.

Our daughter a while back had to quit a casual position she hadn’t had for long and gave 6 weeks’ notice even if needing to give none. Was nervous – because it was a good job, and the boss was really great.

Except for the day she gave notice.

As a leader I get it, that may just have been the straw that day – facing having to recruit again, and maybe she had plans for much more than the casual position offered.

Anyway, I tried painting that picture for our daughter, hoping that she could write off that day’s reactions – and come back for the next shift with an open mind, expecting the boss to be back to her usual good self.

This episode reminded me of how our quality and consistency as leaders and humans are defined, not by the good days, but by how gracefully we handle the bad days.

What’s the difference between a good and a bad day? Maybe comparable to my height. Let me explain:

I used to account my he height as “160 cm – on a good day”. Meaning that even facts have their grey zones – like your height depending on how bright and straight-spined, head high you are on a specific day. It’s easy to measure a good height and a good posture on a good day – what would the snapshot show on a day when we slump, when we’re down, low, and over it? Even the choice of words is telling us the answer: there will definitely be a centimetre or two difference between a good and a bad day.

The same goes for our leadership. Some days, it’s just not great. And that’s OK.

Did I make mistakes this week? Yes. Did I get it wrong as a leader this week? Yes. No matter how great standards, skills, and systems we have, we are only human. Which days are best for insights and learning? The bad days.

How we tackle them. Not what we did with the subject matter or factual issues – but HOW we handled the situations. Some situations we don’t tackle well in the moment. Some decisions we make, turn out to be not right, seen in the clear rear view of hindsight.

This doesn’t define us. It’s how we come back. This is what defines great leadership.

Our quality and consistency as leaders and humans are defined, not by the good days, but by how gracefully we handle and recover from the bad days.

Be accepting of our own and others’ bad days. And if we want to improve our own leadership and quality as human beings, look both at the glorious days to celebrate AND get focused on setting minimum standards for the shitty days. How can we catch it before it goes under our own, lowest standard? And how do we come back? That’s worth checking out.