Toothpaste Moments

Toothpaste Moments

Connecting and building teams through our foibles

This morning I was going through my usual routine –  drinking my coffee, prepping for the day, washing my face, brushing my teeth – not thinking much about it. Just going through the motions.

And then I looked at what I had squeezed into my hand.

Instead of the expected moisturizer, I had placed a sizable dollop of toothpaste in my palm and was about to smear it all over my face. I laughed at myself, rinsed it from my hand, and the day continued.

Wanting to share my humorous foible, I posted a message on my Facebook wall:

Toothpaste moment.JPG

Something quite lovely happened. As of writing this article, 23 of my friends posted their own moments of foolishness. The number of them who’ve brushed their teeth with Preparation H was astounding! The overall message … I do dumb things too.

We all rallied with great humor around the idea of mutual failure. The camaraderie and connection around this moment of shared idiocy were palpable.

This reaction got me thinking about the idea of flaws and failures in the workplace. Should we be sharing more of our mistakes in the workplace? Yes, we should.

We live in a world where the expectation is 100% perfection 100% of the time. In our education, entertainment, and work we talk about goals, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and other measures of success. We are constantly asked to evaluate our level of perfection. Highlighting the dumb mistake is just not done.

We’re sending and hearing the message that flawless execution is the only path to success. 


Is this focus on perfection silencing the stories of silly mistakes; those we all do but cause no harm? I think it is, and I’m sure it’s a problem.

If you ask any executive of a successful company, she’ll tell you that her success is due to their people. The team’s ability to work together creates the products and services that meet market demand. Look at any job description and the majority will include: “works well with others.” The startups of Silicon Valley talk of cultural fit and team dynamic. Why? People’s ability to connect and share ideas has given us everything from the wheel to landing on the moon.

How do we connect with each other? We connect through shared celebration, shared curiosity, and yes, even shared pain.  Connections build trust. Trust fosters a place where people can share ideas.

Which brings me back to the toothpaste. If sharing my toothpaste moment was a catalyst for connection on Facebook, and a connection is that magic ingredient we need to innovate, shouldn’t we be sharing them more of the time? Again, I think the answer is yes. As I’ve thought about examples in my own life, when the Toothpaste Moment happened organically team dynamics were at their best. Every single time. 

So what if we started being more deliberate about our Toothpaste Moments.  Is the organic nature required or would just sharing them once in awhile impact the dynamics in your team?

Are you brave enough to try? Share your toothpaste moments with your work family. I’m curious, what unexpected results will come from sharing your flaws?


Trouble - It's not always a bad thing

Trouble - It's not always a bad thing

Are you telling your team members the truth?

Are you telling your team members the truth?