I have recently been working with a company to help them move things in a better direction. They have a great vision and strategy, but they wanted a bit of support as they expand their operations and scope. The big challenge for me was that I was in an unfamiliar country, with an unfamiliar culture and an unfamiliar language. What’s more is my personality is counter to the prevalent national culture, so I was quite aware of the possibility that I could be more of an obstruction than a help. So the die was cast for my beautiful disaster.

The leaders of this company were in unfamiliar waters as well because of a limited amount of experience. The interesting bit was the focus of this project, at least initially, was based on an event that was coming too quickly for anyone’s comfort level. We prepared and discussed and did what we could with the time we had. The day came and went and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t as successful as we had hoped. It was an unexpectedly amazing learning experience.

It was a disaster that taught me something beautiful. Success can come from the strangest places, and that was exactly what happened in this instance. Here are the lessons I learned.

  • Be comfortable with feeling anxious – We knew we weren’t fully ready, but we had to follow through on things. There was enough anxiety among us to give a small city a nervous breakdown, but we discussed and accepted it as part of the process. Having a culture where anxiety is viewed as a natural part of business will allow for greater innovation and trust.
  • Don’t wait for ALL the answers to take action – There were more questions than answers the day we had to perform. Many times taking action on minimal information is viewed as – and can be – irresponsible and reckless. There are times when it is the best course of action. Trust your gut and take some risks!
  • Let the process be a learning experience – It’s so common to look back and do some quality self-berating as an attempt to absolve your guilt from “failing”. The reality is leadership means you don’t have to have all the answers, you just have to make sure things count when they need to. Mistakes will happen, so letting them be teachers instead of defining your worth is a much healthier approach. Many of the lessons we learned came from leaning in to our anxiety.
  • Turn fear into motivation – Not being able to communicate in some instances forced me to approach situations in a new way. I had to listen more. I had to pay attention to things that I often have taken for granted. I can say I will walk away from this situation with more than just another client. I will leave a better person and a better professional for having experienced it. I didn’t know what I was missing until I had the opportunity to have my beautiful disaster.

My beautiful disaster taught me yet another way to learn and grow as a person and a professional. It wasn’t something I would have normally attempted, but my profession demanded it of me. What is your profession demanding of you that you have been avoiding like the plague? What lessons are you missing because you haven’t given space for your beautiful disaster?