Sep 152016 2 Responses

The Work Mistake I Still Regret

I’ve made a lot of mistakes at work–some as an employee, but many more as an employer. I’ve overestimated my ability and underestimated the effort required. I’ve failed to see obvious facts which would influence a decision and created things which weren’t actually there. I’ve been selfish, closed-minded, and insecure.

But there is one mistake which stands above all the rest. Present and former co-workers might be quick to say this wasn’t my worst mistake, but it is the one I regret the most.

My Mistake

When I was in graduate school, I worked at a church. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. The church was kind. The staff was friendly. And my bosses took special care in assisting me to learn the ropes. (See: Work Your T.A.I.L. Off)

My goal was to preach, but in the tradition of that church there weren’t many opportunities to do so. One day someone higher on the organizational chart asked me to teach a class. I didn’t want to do so. The material was weak. The class was on a Wednesday night when most churches had ended their Wednesday night meetings. The original teacher had backed out at the last minute and I was the only person he could make do it.

Of course, I was an obedient employee so I agreed. But I didn’t work at it. The church advertised the class, but I didn’t. I didn’t recruit anyone or tell anyone about it. My hope was that no one would show up and I wouldn’t be stuck for eight consecutive Wednesday nights.

My hopes came true. Sure enough, on the first night of the class, my wife and I showed up, but no one else did. As we sat there counting down the minutes until our freedom, the Senior Pastor walked by. He stuck his head in the door, looked around, and said, “You only need one more person to have three chairs.” (The material was called Three Chairs.) I laughed, he didn’t, and he left.

Immediately, I knew I had made a major mistake. I had been selfish, short-sighted, and not a team player. Instead of accepting the assignment as an opportunity to help others, prove myself, and take a step toward my long-term goals, I saw the assignment as an inconvenience and sabotaged any chance of it succeeding.

Our Mistake

I made a mistake which many employees make. I assumed an assignment didn’t fit my goals so I gave minimal effort to it. What we often fail to realize is that every assignment is an opportunity.

At minimum, every assignment is a reflection of our passion, ability, work-ethic. If for no other reason, I should have worked hard to prove to my bosses that I had something to contribute. Imagine if the room would have been packed. How quickly would my supervisor have heard about a class that was a great success? What if people would have told him that he had to let me speak more often? (See: 3 Things Every Employee Should Do)

Instead, because I didn’t seen any direct connection between my desires and my assignment, I didn’t do my absolute best. I did what was minimally required to appease my boss. Just say it out loud–which employee do I want to be, one who does my best at every task or one who only works hard when I get what I want?

I don’t think the person who asked me to teach the class had some grand scheme in mind. It wasn’t a test. He needed a guy and he could make me teach. However, now that I oversee people, I can imagine a scenario in which an overseer would give a small assignment to someone just to see how they handled it. Before allowing them to do something big, give them a small task and see if they have some skill.

Whether or not that was the plan, I failed. I was given an opportunity and I did not take advantage of it. It’s something I still regret today.

4 Keys to Every Assignment

From that experience I have learned:

1. Every assignment is valuable because it reflects on my ability, responsibility, and work-ethic.

2. Every assignment is an opportunity because bosses are always paying attention.

3. Every assignment matters because success or failure will determine future opportunities.

4. Every assignment is profitable because it contributes to the team.

If you work for someone, chances are you will be given assignments you do not like, understand, or believe should be given to you. The feeling is understandable, but don’t allow your feelings to rob you from the opportunity you have been given. Succeed in every assignment. You will never regret you did.

2 Responses to The Work Mistake I Still Regret

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.