When was the last time you did something that had lasting unfavorable consequences on you and your reputation?

While it is easy for us to stand back and judge leaders and public figures who we deem to have “messed-up” royally – we are fortunate that most of the time our own mishaps are not splattered all over the news and social media.

The past couple of weeks served up some pretty prominent examples of “I wish I had a do-over” moments. Think Brian Cullinan’s oh-so-embarrassing mess-up at the Academy Awards and Travis Kalanick’s less than emotionally intelligent tirade at an Uber driver.

In case you missed these, Brian Cullinan was the Price Waterhouse Cooper’s partner who gave the wrong award envelope to Warren Beatty, apparently due to his own distraction sending out tweets while he was backstage, resulting in an historic flub in the “best picture” award. Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, had his less than leader-like behavior towards an Uber driver go viral for all to witness on social media and the news when a video-tape of the episode was discovered.

Both have had to experience feelings of embarrassment and humiliation, and have taken big blows to their personal and public reputations. I am sure they would both behave differently as a result, if only they had a “do-over” moment. (Travis went so far as to acknowledge his need for “leadership help” to try and salvage his tarnished reputation as a leader, as this is not his first “do-over” moment to make the news.)

What I know from working with thousands of people over the years, most of them in senior leadership positions, is that we all experience “do-over” moments that negatively affect our reputations as leaders and role models. While not in every case, but more often than not, they can be avoided if we are deliberate and intentional about choosing our behaviors in any given moment, rather than operating unconsciously or reacting to a circumstance.

Here are three practices that will help you minimize those dreaded “do-over” moments:

  1. See yourself as a role model and a leader and remember that others watch and look up to you

Whether you have a formal title as a leader in an organization, are a government official, are a parent, spouse, partner, or friend, you are still a leader whose behaviors influence and are emulated by others. Those in your circle of influence watch your behaviors, and learn from you by example. Do your actions each and every moment personify the behaviors you want to be known for?. Act as if everything you said and did was being watched. It is.

  1. Behave consciously instead of unconsciously

We all get angry, annoyed, frustrated, cranky, and the like. Emotions are part of our human conditions. Learning to manage those emotions and regulate them consciously rather than being unconsciously driven by them is foundational for not only our own well-being and happiness, but for maintaining positive relationships with others. Taking a “time-out” to regroup before speaking or acting when you are overtaken by an overwhelming emotion, and recognizing that the emotion is separate from you, may help.

Travis could have benefited greatly by taking a moment to stop and think before doing or saying something, or anything at all, and choosing the behavior and words that most served his intention to be a role model and leader to others.

  1. Keep your ego at bay

When we are serving others in our work, relationships, or in the world, the focus is on the ones we serve, and not on us. When that focus shifts to us in the center, we are in what I call the “danger zone” as a leader. Why? Because when it is about “us”, it cannot be about “them”.   Brian was at the Academy Awards that night to serve the Academy’s intention to recognize excellence in the movie industry. His role was to make sure that those awards were handled with the utmost secrecy, integrity, and honesty. And his intention was surely to do so. But when he seemingly got caught up in his own self-importance at being there and hob-knobbing with the stars, he momentarily lost sight of that service and made the moment about him. Practicing keeping our egos at bay and staying in a place of service is a constant necessity as an effective role model and leader.


When you interact with others, they do not see your good intentions, what you really meant, or what you are thinking. They only see what you do or what you say.

Being more deliberate about making sure what you do and say match what you intend each and every moment is up to you. Slowing down and choosing those actions and words rather than having them choose you, will go a long way in avoiding those “do-over” moments.

I’d love to hear your experiences– send me a note with your “do-over” moments.


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