Like me, I think most of us grew up being told to “do your best”. We were never told to “make a mistake”. Good reason for that – as humans we strive to succeed and those around us want us to be the best we can be. But what if were given permission to make mistakes? What if that was expected of us?
Sure, no one likes to make a mistake, but there are benefits. When you own up to a bad choice or decision, it opens you up to these opportunities:
• Gives you a chance to learn more about the issue you made the mistake about. Perhaps you didn’t have all the right information. This will help to make a better decision next time.
• Gives you the chance to light a fire inside and propel you forward. Who wants to stay in defeated mode?
• Gives you the chance to realize none of us are perfect and don’t have to be. This humbling experience allows you to forgive yourself and understand that to err is truly human.
• It invites change in your world and your perceptions. So often we make a decision to do something from a place of competition or ego. We think we have gathered all the facts. But none of us can see every angle. We all have different perceptions. When you make a mistake it gives you the chance to open up and see perspectives you couldn’t see from your vantage point. When you do this, you are changing your world. Going forward, you can make new decisions with more information and insight than you started with.
If you lead a team and you or a member makes a mistake, think about how you typically respond to that error. Do you slough it off, chastise the mistake maker, or own up to it and discuss it openly? Choosing the latter provides the opportunity to experience all of the above. As a leader, this is a critical characteristic. In one of my favorite books on leadership, The Extrordinary Leader, Zenger and Folkman explain that mistakes are part of the learning process. “A healthy attitude toward mistakes and negative experiences is crucial to growth and improved performance.”
Why do I love a good mistake? It offers me the chance to practice my leadership by stepping up, learning from it and broadening my perspective. Next time you are faced with a mistake, ask yourselves these questions and learn why you can love them too.
1. Did I have all the right information?
2. What do I see now that could have made a difference?
3. Am I willing to share my mistake with others?
4. How can I use this mistake going forward?