Elephant in the Room Award

Long ago I learned the value of swallowing my pride and openly admitting my mistakes. By making a practice of it, I am able to sharpen my self-awareness and learn a lot more in the process. And when I make a mistake, I’ll even go out of my way to acknowledge it if there’s a larger lesson to be served.

The idea is to not only pay respect to those you might not have listened to carefully enough, but also to create a lasting memory that helps you hone your problem-solving skills.

People tend to skip over their slip-ups as quickly as possible, but there is so much more value to be harnessed from transparency. In one instance, I went so far as to buy a colleague a symbolic coffee cup to mark the occasion. After an all-nighter that resulted from an oversight of mine, I was in dire need of a booster from Starbucks. The afternoon before, I had taken a colleague’s input about a confounding issue, but I was too close to my coding to see the obvious.

There are all kinds of ways to rationalize why I was missing what was right in front of me — but none of them trump my failure to fully consider what made the most sense.

I eventually discovered that even though the process had been working for months, I had left out a tiny but critical component that caused a problem once we were in production.

I decided to embrace my blunder and pay homage to my colleague for having the right idea in the first place. Little did I know that Starbucks would have the most perfect memento I could imagine. On the wall were “inspired by our Kenya coffee” cups, and the one with the elephant immediately caught my eye.

What began as a nice gesture became Elephant in the Room Award — presented that morning in an off-the-cuff speech to inject some humor into the story.