For years we've asked dinner companions to play a game we call "Bottom This." Each relates an embarrassment, failure or terrible job, doing their best to beat the previous speaker. Interestingly enough, a recent Leigh Thompson article in Fast Company notes that when teams share their failure or challenge stories, it boosts their creativity, enjoyment, and ultimately, their performance. Some tasty examples:
Sonali stood in front of a 1000-person audience, thinking she had won an all-company award-- but it had been announced for a colleague with a similar-sounding name.
Claudia realized after the C-level client meeting she'd led, that her new blouse still had the 'discount' price tag visibly attached.
We spoke at a Food and Drug Conference in Las Vegas and observed many of our audience falling asleep. Even worse, when we stayed to sign our books, everyone walked past us on their way to a vendor giving away free vodka. Afterwards, we found out that attendees partied late the night before
We also recommend using targeted challenge stories in client or potential client meetings. These examples show your humility, and allow you to more quickly connect. They also strategically implant in the minds of the listener that you learned critical lessons and are now seasoned and nimble. Bottom that.