It seems to me that when something goes wrong, I have to take a clear objective look at the sequence of events and make an assessment. My three choices are:
- I did nothing wrong.
- I did a little bit wrong.
- Wow. It is all my fault.
Making this assessment calls for stepping back, for putting my feelings aside, for trying to see things from the other side. Sometimes this is hard to do, especially when I’m still mad or upset or saddened. But as a director, as a leader, feelings are not supposed to be a part of this equation. Truthfully, it’s not only in the leadership position that this objectivity should come into play, but in every human interaction in which the fullest possible positive outcome is not achieved; i.e., when something goes wrong.
Most of the time, I conclude that, #2, I did a little bit wrong. That is due to the overall realization that most problems, most things that go “wrong,” are a matter of communication. After all, there are two sides to every story. So either in the initial event, or in the retelling of it, I either said something, or neglected to say something, or misinterpreted the narrative. (As I type that, I think, “I should just keep my mouth shut.”)
But that is shortsighted. And not possible, especially as a leader. I have to communicate the vision I have as a director, whether it’s regarding a shot, a performance, or a decision. I hope to do that in a concise and precise manner, as clarity cuts down on misunderstanding. And if I am the receiver of information, I try to focus with full attention. Sometimes I fail at that too, as I’m prone to multi-tasking (having a conversation with my mother on speakerphone while I put away groceries, for example) and that leads to inattention which often results in something going wrong.
I had an experience recently in which, while trying to stop someone from an action that I thought was a bad idea, I gave a personal example of the possible repercussions. My opponent, who came from a totally different background than I, saw the whole thing differently. So while I thought I was being clear and on point, I was tragically misinterpreted. Was I at fault? At first, I would have fiercely denied it. About a week later, I was able to look back on the event and admit I shouldn’t have used the personal example because it was too specific. Therefore, I was a little bit at fault.
And when something goes wrong on set, when a scene isn’t as good as it could be, am I at fault? Undoubtedly. If I believe that the buck stops with me, I have to accept responsibility. Of course, there could be mitigating factors, things that were not foreseeable. But if we planned well, if I communicated clearly, the scene should be great. Should be. But I guess I can’t control everything. No one can. So I can take a deep breath, do my best, and when things go wrong, take a look back and assess what I could do better. Therefore, when something goes wrong, that’s a gift, because it makes me grow. I know this isn’t news. Philosophers through time have expounded on this theory. But for me, seeing my mistakes as gifts is a new perspective. Maybe being able to say, “I’m a little bit wrong,” is a good thing…