Jason, did you know we were waiting for you in the conference room down the hall?
Jason looked up from his desk and then at the clock and realized that yes he did know. Somehow he just forgot. He spent most of yesterday afternoon preparing for this budget meeting. He felt really odd about being late, there was no specific reason for it, he just kind of spaced out.
During the meeting Jason found he had a difficult time concentrating. He misread some of the numbers. At one point one of his stakeholders stopped him and asked him to repeat something because the numbers he had just quoted did not add up. Sure enough, his stakeholder was correct; Jason had inadvertently read the wrong number. Jason could tell that he was not giving his best performance, he did not know why, he just felt off.
Of course the attendees of the meeting also knew that Jason was not giving his best performance. In fact after the meeting one of his stakeholders said, Jason, you were a bit off your game today.
Is it all over for Jason? Is this one bad day going to ruin his career? No! He did not do anything truly awful or career limiting. He was just operating below peak performance. His stakeholders will understand. Why will they understand? First, they see Jason perform at peak levels most of the days of the year. They see him work very hard. They see him arrive to meetings on time and prepared. They have seen him give a presentation very similar to the one he had trouble with today and most times he really nails it. He usually presents clearly and makes the numbers easy for everyone to understand and discuss.
There is another reason why they will understand that Jason had an off day. They have all had off days too. When they had their off days, Jason was empathetic. He did not go after them for poor performance or hassle them for not being on top of their game. He extended them professional courtesy. Luckily, Jason and his group work in an environment where this is part of the culture. They do not work in a culture which promotes attacking someone the minute they exhibit a weakness.
Even though Jason knew his off day would not be held against him, it still bothered him.
He did think about it as he commuted home that evening. On the way in the next morning he realized that he was going to be in a meeting with that same group later in the day. When it was time for that meeting he knew exactly what he would do. He would arrive at the meeting on time and start it with a brief statement, something like this:
Thank you all for your patience yesterday, as you could probably tell I was a bit off my game and I really appreciate the fact that you all stuck with me and asked good questions to help me deliver a financial report that made sense. Today I feel ready to go!
And Jason was back on his game.