The painful path to wisdom
I am a Minnesota Vikings fan. To be a Vikings fan is to know heartbreak. They’ve lost all four Super Bowls they played in, the most recent 42 years ago. Nothing epitomizes the franchise’s futility more than a string of blown field goal attempts at critical moments in big games, including a couple historic fourth quarter misses in playoffs.
So, it was interesting to learn that the Vikings had hired a coach specifically for placekicking. His name is Nate Kaeding, and he was a pretty good NFL kicker in his time, making over 85% of his field goal attempts in a nine-year career. Kaeding’s record in post-season play is a different matter, hitting only 8 of 15 attempts. In three playoff games, his misses were the margin of defeat for his team.
Why is Kaeding a good choice to coach the Vikings’ kicker? I submit that it’s because he had a track record of success at the highest level, AND because he has the scars of failure. Scars are the imperfections that make people interesting. They are the proof of perspective; what was a wound has now healed. With that healing comes the ability to analyze what went wrong and what corrective actions could have been taken.
It is far less painful to learn from others’ mistakes, rather than your own. If my missteps can provide a cautionary tale, you can learn from them and save yourself the trauma. Kaeding understands better than almost anybody what the consequences of a breakdown in mechanics or of getting psyched out by the moment can mean. If Kaeding can tell the Vikings’ kicker that his plant foot was too close to the ball on five of his playoff misses or to be prepared if the laces are facing him, that is wisdom to embrace.
Brigid Bonner is one of Executive Springboard’s mentors. She has a remarkable resume blending IT and marketing, having served as General Manager at Target.Direct, Chief Information Officer at United Health Technologies and VP of Digital Marketing for Schwan’s Home Service. She is now Chief Experience Officer for CaringBridge, the first social network set up to communicate and support loved ones during a health journey. With all her successes, she impressed me most when she told me that the greatest value she could bring as a mentor would be in showing her scars.
I think Brigid’s generosity in sharing her failures is critical in a mentor. And it is one of the biggest differences between an executive coach and a mentor. A coach has expertise as a listener, with great value coming from the questions she asks . A mentor has been in the arena. With that experience comes credibility and wisdom that is relevant to a mentee.
Organizations don’t often deal with failures well. A data breach might cost a CIO his job. And it can be difficult for him to land her next position, because the hiring company uses past as prologue instead of considering how much learning this person has gained. Finding a way to tap into this wisdom, this experience gained from facing a situation you hope you never encounter, can pay enormous dividends.
As a Viking fan, hope springs eternal. Maybe, just maybe, a kicker in purple can boot it right down the middle in the waning moments of the big game this year. Here’s hoping you can make a difference, Mr. Kaeding!
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Executive Springboard President Steve Moss shares learning from years as an executive and a mentor.