dr carl robinson

The Currency of Success - Interpersonal Intelligence™


How Your Mistakes Can Grow Your Organization

Learning From Your Mistakes
The American author, Meg Cabot, is credited with saying “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” As a manager, and especially as someone in a company’s highest of positions, there is often a fear of failure…a fear that allowing anyone to see our mistakes will undermine our authority. The conscious judgment you can make as a leader, however, is to recognize the benefits derived by allowing others to witness your mistakes. Then, you make that more important than fear.
Why It Matters
No one is exempt from mistakes. We all make them—leaders, too. John Wooden once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” And, therein lies a lot of truth. So, when a leader attempts to position him or herself as a person without fault or flaws, it forms a barrier between that leader and the people he or she is responsible for nurturing. We are connected by our similarities, and that is hard to accomplish if your employees are unable to identify with you. The result is a disconnected organization with low morale.

Mistakes are tools that help us learn. You’ve likely heard the question: “what good are mistakes if you don’t get something from them?” The first step is to realize that your mistakes are a benefit to you, giving you a lesson on what works and doesn’t work so you can apply that knowledge going forward. But sharing this with others allows them to learn as well. You will witness improved efficiencies with this approach as employees do not continue to spin their wheels attempting what has already failed.

Allowing your people to see your mistakes will encourage the growth of an organization built on strong character. An organization is only as strong as its people, so encouraging them to be real, honest, and to deal with mistakes in the most productive way possible, will have a positive impact on the organization as a whole.
How It’s Handled
Here comes the tricky part, and the point where a lot of leaders get stuck. It’s time to admit the mistake. But if done correctly, it’s an empowering and powerful lesson for all involved; so, well-worth the few minutes of discomfort (which is usually only in your mind). Here are the steps that will help you take charge and stay in control of the situation:

  1. Own It—As soon as you make the mistake, recognize it. Verify its existence and do not shirk away.
  2. Acknowledge It—Bring it to the attention of those who need to know as well as those it will affect. You never want an employee to learn of your mistake from someone else.
  3. Seek Help—This may be difficult, but the best leaders know they don’t have all the answers. Asking for assistance in addressing the issue or correcting the mistake creates humility, strengthens relationships, and sets a positive example.
  4. Solve It—Work diligently with those involved to address the issue, and attempt to reverse or correct the mistake.
  5. Learn From It—The best thing you can do is take that experience, share it with others, and collectively learn from it—apply it going forward so the same mistakes aren’t made again.

The focus of every CEO should always be on the ways in which he or she can improve the organization and grow its people, regardless of whatever personal pride must be swallowed at the time to accomplish it. This is the act of recognizing something that’s far more important than fear, and what defines a true leader.

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