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My Bad


Of the many hats I don at Handel Group, from CFO to President of HG University to husband of Head Life Coach Laurie Gerber, helming HG’s Sports Division isn’t one of them. I played two sports in college, so juggling several sports isn’t all that new to me. No matter what, it seems I always like to be IN THE GAME, winning or losing, learning and growing, and cooperating creatively and competitively with people.

What that’s become in middle age is a pick-up basketball habit.

Basketball doesn’t just keep me in shape (though that too), or assist in making me some friends, or gift me an endless amount of metaphors to use in life and business, perhaps most importantly, it gives me one ubiquitous phrase that permeates well beyond the court to so many aspects of life, where accountability is beyond valuable  – it’s essential. What is it?  

“My bad.” 

Common knowledge has it that “My Bad” was coined by international NBA player Manute Bol. It’s one of my favorite contributions of Black Culture that enables me, an upper middle class cisgender white male, to be a better human on a daily basis, and one that I depend upon heavily in how I view the world and navigate my way through it. It’s one among many other contributions I am consciously appreciative of or unconsciously benefitting from.

The thing is, you simply CANNOT play basketball anywhere without awareness of it. How it works is so powerful and simple, it’s almost ridiculous: if you make a mistake, you say “my bad.” 

That’s it.  

You publicly acknowledge your mistake and, in so doing, inform everyone within the sound of your voice that you understand your error, you take accountability for it, and you will not be making that error again.

The value rests not just in the emotional resolution of an apology, but in the trust that it engineers for a different outcome the next time. On a pick-up basketball court we are often total strangers trying to gel as a team in an instant, learn one anothers’ diverse aptitudes and skill sets, and collaborate in empty space, without many words. If I screw up and don’t own it on the spot, I will quickly be phased out. Nobody’s feeding the ball back to someone who’s going to squander the possession, not learn from mistakes, and take the team down. This is critical: in real time the team HAS TO ignore you if you don’t take accountability and promise to do better, and they’re right to do so because the team will lose the game.

Unfortunately, many of us (myself included), aren’t as quick to account in our lives as we are on the court.

In The Handel Method, we focus on many things, to say the least. One of which happens to be personality traits. We not only seek to understand their positive and negative impact on us and others, but get into the right actions to take on the negative ones and take them down. It’s a good thing, as I have more than a locker full of my own.

Want to hear about one of my not so great ones? 

It’s one I’ve come to call “Jesus Christ, Superstar” because it often has me trying to be perfect all the time, never making a mistake, and certainly never admitting what I did (or didn’t do) was wrong, as it (the trait) can NEVER be wrong. Can you see how my arrogant perfectionism might put me on a collision course with the good sense of owning “my bad”? 

Good. Because, at times, I can’t.

Here’s how “Jesus Christ, Superstar” shows up. The other night after dinner, it was my wife Laurie’s job (or in HG terms, her bodega) to load the dishwasher. Well, arrogant me sauntered over to “help” (a.k.a. improve her inferior work) and she told me to back off. And immediately my trait was off on it’s soap box  – “Laurie does a mediocre job with her bodega, if she did it properly I wouldn’t have to step in.”

That went as well as you can imagine.

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But that was also when I was able to hear it, see my trait at play, step back (as directed) and shut it down, avoiding a bigger argument with my sweetheart about how to stack a dishwasher (as romantic as that sounds). 

My JC,S trait can show up at work as well. For example, just the other day, I forgot to follow up with a document from a meeting with one of my direct reports, who had to remind me a week later I hadn’t sent it over. Upon receiving the reminder, my trait got to work  – “Of course my colleague should have reminded me. I am VERY busy and VERY important (see: all my hats). I couldn’t possibly be expected to remember that tiny task on top of everything else I’m managing.”

In both instances my trait tried to pass the situation as THEIR fault, not mine. Had I been able to embrace the “my bad” mentality sooner, I could have saved myself a ton of brain space and emotional energy, and probably inspired a deeper connection with each of those individuals by taking accountability. 

You see, the value of “my bad” rests not just in the emotional resolution of an apology, but in the trust that it engineers for a different outcome the next time. 

By nature, many of us would rather not cop to our s–t. And certainly not be the first one to do so in a partnership of any kind. We’d sooner make excuses and deflect accountability. Figure out why and how the loss or mistake is someone else’s fault. That’s not trustworthy. It’s not leaderly. It’s not fun. Not to mention, it DESTROYS teams. 

Want to instantaneously engineer trust with a partner, teammate, total stranger, and or my wife? 

The moment it’s warranted, say “my bad,” clear the air, and get back to authoring your intended outcome. To bring an enhanced level of accountability and integrity to YOUR team or relationship, find us at Handel Group.