Earlier this month, a clip of Australian anchor Natasha Exelby went viral—blissfully unaware of the rolling camera she was seen daydreaming and fiddling with her pen before realising—with a visible jolt of shock—that she was on air. What's more, viewers have overwhelmingly responded with sympathy and solidarity rather than judgment. It brings to light five things we should all remind ourselves of from time to time.
1. It's okay to be imperfect
People understand that in today's high-stress environment, it's not possible to be error-free on all occasions. And if these mistakes happen inadvertently and cause no real harm, people are willing to let it pass without censure. If the mistake is more serious, a sincere sorry can go a long way.
Who would have thought a mistake could make a person a household name? Yet, that's what happened. Today Natasha Exelby is known all over the world.
The other point to remember here is that a mistake provides a great opportunity to learn and be better in your area of work. Learning from mistakes also makes you more resilient and thus improves your performance.
2. Learn to practice Wabi-sabi
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic concept of finding beauty in imperfection. In his book on the subject, writer and artist Leonard Koren writes: "Wabi-sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental."
So how do we practice wabi-sabi?
Home: If you are raising children don't expect them to be perfect and extraordinary. Let them learn from the rough and tumble of life. Let them take the lessons from the mistakes they make. When you allow them to do this, they will learn how to negotiate the challenges of life. Next time you see your child drawing with crayons on the wall, don't scold her. Or don't try to clean the wall immediately. Try to appreciate the beauty in those sketches made by your child.
Workplace: This is also true of your workplace. Don't expect your teams to be perfect. Push them to take chances and try out the impossible. Let them work on projects and new ideas. So what if they fail? They will still learn a lot out and the organisation will benefit.
Similarly, one mistake young professionals often make is that they think their leaders will be perfect. That's not true. Leaders do not have superpowers. They have their imperfections. So don't get disappointed if you see your favourite leader doing something that s/he shouldn't.
Most importantly, celebrate not only success but also failures—take a cue from companies such as Intuit who do so!
3. Social media gives employees power
We live in a very different world today. If an employee does not get justice within an organisation, he or she can use pressure from outside. This is possible because of the power of social media. In the case of Natasha Exelby, there were earlier reports which said that the channel ABC had banned her from on-air appearances. However, this was later denied by the channel. While we may not know what really happened, one thing is very clear, the social media outcry over initial reports seems to have played a role. Many TV journalists from around the world came out in support of Exelby.
My objective here is to not dissect the ABC case but there is an important message for business organisations. If an employee feels that the company has not been fair to him /her she can always use social media for support if really pushed to the wall. Of course, this may backfire and even end the employee's career, so it's a measure that should be employed with care. A progressive company, of course, should have a solid grievance policy and ensure there are sufficient mechanisms for employees to vent their concerns.
4. A gaffe can be an opportunity
Who would have thought a mistake could make a person a household name? Yet, that's what happened. Today Natasha Exelby is known all over the world. Don't be surprised if this opens up better opportunities for her. She is already an internet sensation. What a mistake like this does to person, especially those in the public domain, is that it makes them seem more relatable and human—people are able to connect with them.
5. It's time to shun atelophobia
Atelophobia is a fear of being imperfect and making mistakes. If you have this phobia, you'll have a hard time staying relevant in the workplace. That's because it will stop you from trying new things and innovating because you'll be so afraid of looking bad in front of others. You'll avoid taking ownership and responsibility for the fear of failing. In addition, a pursuit for perfection may result in procrastination and nothing getting done on time. What the workplace needs most of the time is "quick and functional" stuff and not something which is perfect to the last decimal. Atelophobics also tend to micromanage their subordinates and make their lives hell. Such people find it very difficult to succeed in the workplace as they don't want to take chances and like to live in their comfort zone. Even if they have some great ideas, they just die within them.