On November 18, 2021 ELGL members discussed “Permission to Screw Up” by Kristen Hadeed for the ELGL Book Club. We gave away six signed copies of the book to our members and asked them to write reflections on the book. Here’s the reflection post by Stephanie Taylor, Public Information Coordinator, Carlisle Bourough. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter and LinkedIn.
I want to start by admitting that I was hesitant when I saw the most recent ELGL book club pick. Judging the book by its cover and its title, I initially thought the book was more of the touchy-feely, self-help genre, which has never been my thing! After reading the synopsis, I realized I judged too quickly. Plus, the author is a former Florida Gator, just like me!
While Permission to Screw Up wasn’t life-changing or earth-shattering, I did truly enjoy Kristen Hadeed’s story. I appreciated the honesty and openness in which she detailed her missteps. She comes across in the book as very relatable, which isn’t a quality I would normally ascribe to CEOs (or at least the ones I have encountered). It was very refreshing to read Kristen’s account of her journey founding and running Student Maid. I would rather read the unpolished and honest experience of someone’s journey, than just the glossy highlights.
One moment in the book that stuck with me is when Kristen stood up in front of the sixty employees who all quit in the middle of a job. “It’s my first time managing something as big as this,” she said. “…I’m not really sure what I’m doing.” In my professional career, I don’t think I’ve ever had a boss express quite that level of vulnerability to employees. While I have had that very thought in my head, I have never actually said it.
I often struggle with the idea of perfection and not screwing up, especially when it relates to work. I have been this way for as long as I can remember. However, I always hold myself to this standard, not others. I am the one who can talk down others when they are upset about making a mistake or a wrong decision. I can sense when others are struggling, and I reach out to help. Yet, I am often unable to ask others for help when I am struggling. Why can’t I give myself the same breaks I give others?
To be fair, I do have an answer for why. Anxiety. I have lived with generalized anxiety disorder for such a long time. While the worst effects are tempered by medication and therapy, it does show its face when I make mistakes and when I am overwhelmed. Normal brains make a mistake, acknowledge it, learn from it, and move on. My brain? Let’s obsess over that and start looking for new jobs because I am certainly going to be fired! For the record, I thankfully have not once been fired.
I have been consciously working on this for the last few years, with varying degrees of success. The occasional typo in a press release doesn’t send me into a tailspin, and I have, albeit begrudgingly, asked for help when I felt overwhelmed. Baby steps.
I think reading a story like Kristen’s and seeing her and her company overcome their mistakes was good for me. Now the next step is consistently giving myself that same level of grace I give to others. I need to give myself that permission to screw up.