The second book that I finished this past week as ‘Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong’ by Kristen Hadeed.

While I really liked this book, I realized that I was reading it from the viewpoint of a ‘worker’, even though I’ve been a ‘team leader’ in a sense over the years–I never have had to do an evaluation on someone else, I’ve always been the one being evaluated.

I would like to think that I’ve managed to do some things correctly over the years: earn the trust of the student workers, mentor/train them, and allow for minor mistakes to happen so that the students could learn from them (one doesn’t want a major mistake in a lab).

I also realized what I’ve lacked from those above me, and also realized that the blame goes both ways. Since I have mild/moderate social anxiety and a need to avoid (most) confrontations (thanks to public schools and bullies), I’ve allowed myself to flounder for years (or even possibly decades) after graduation.

These two feelings have led me to try to avoid meetings and any type of confrontation–I always felt like any criticism recieved in the meeting/confrontation was negative (even when mentally I knew some/most was positive), and then I would have to deal with negative self-chatter the rest of the day.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t get feedback on the job–I did (for the most part), but at times it didn’t feel timely, and a lot of the time it didn’t feel constructive. In part, there were the jobs–when you’re in the lab at the bench, you’re expected to figure out problems on your own (and I enjoy doing that)–the feedback was usually in regards to hours worked or other related issues (nothing really to do with the science or the bench). The other positions, the feedback at times was in regards to both bench work and other issues.

I realized (well after the fact) that one of the biggest problems was the comparison trap: when you’re hired to do a job, but another person (who also has held that job) is still there–that is who you get compared to–you’re held not to your own standard of what you can accomplish but to how someone else did the job and their performance, and at times it isn’t a good feeling.

Being told that the job matters, you’re making a difference, and that works counts are all things that everyone needs/wants to hear from time to time on the job. Being in science (especially academia) those aren’t things that you hear all that often–and I realized that those are things that I need to make sure that I either tell myself (if and when I decide to start up a freelance business), or are a major part of the company culture for the company I do decide to work for–I’m not saying that those are things that have to be said constantly (I’d be a little worried if they were said constantly), but it’s nice to be acknowledged and appreciated every so often for the job that one does.

I will also have to remind myself that minor mistakes are always okay (as long as it isn’t a constant stream of little mistakes)–major ones should only happen once (if that), the lesson learned, and then the mistake is never repeated again. This is something that I will have to work on (as most of the positions I’ve held–mistakes weren’t really considered ‘okay’–they were considered more of a ‘lack of focus’ and ‘lack of attention to detail’ and were to be avoided)–avoiding both the ‘pit of perfectionism’ and the ‘pit of analysis/paralysis of not getting anything done for fear of mistakes’.

So I mentioned how the book reminded me that I have an ‘aversion’ to meetings. This ‘aversion’ isn’t going to help me in the long run, so I’m going to ‘develop’ a system to help me get over the aversion. The ‘rough idea’ currently is that I’m going to spend part of the weekend in ‘executive’ mode and sit with my to-do lists and other papers and honestly determine how I did for the week in terms of getting things done. Once I’m comfortable with ‘myself’, I plan on reaching out to friends/colleagues who might also be looking for an accountability partner and go from there. Baby steps….

I would recommend this book to basically everyone, even if you’re not a ‘leader’ in the normal sense of the word–you’re a ‘leader’ in your own life and we can all learn something from both this book and each other. My rating for the book: five out of five stars.