Everyone messes up. It’s how you handle those missteps and use your mistakes as a springboard to improve yourself that matters.
Success starts with the right mindset in how you view those inevitable errors. “If you keep ruminating over a past mistake, you can waste a lot of time and start to question your own competence,” Jim Bohn, a Milwaukee-based organizational consultant who wrote “If Your Water Cooler Could Talk,” told Investor’s Business Daily. “It’s a vicious spiral.”
He tells people to go through a post-mortem after a key mistake. Look at what went wrong and how to improve next time.
“Remember everybody goes through this,” Bohn said. “Nobody’s perfect. If you’re batting 80%, that’s pretty good.”
Improve Yourself By Moving On
Avoid dwelling on the problem. That can cause you to overthink everything.
Instead, aim to move quickly past it. “Know this emotion is going to be there and there’s not much you can do about it,” Bohn said. “Acknowledge you’re going to feel bad and that’s part of the human condition.”
But that doesn’t mean you ignore those missteps, either. You can learn a lot from them. Bohn suggests writing the issue at the top of a piece of paper. On one side, list what happened. On the other, go through the things you can gain from it.
When someone makes a big mistake — lost a client or rolled out a product that failed — the best approach is to say, “Here’s what I did, here’s what I learned, here’s what I’ll do differently next time, and here’s how I’m accountable for that,” said Linda Galindo, a Half Moon Bay, Calif.-based consultant who coaches executives on accountability.
“Then you will interact with mistakes in a culture that embraces learning,” Galindo said. “Mistakes either create a culture of fear or continuous learning to the point it becomes your competitive advantage. If it becomes a practice we’re going to reward anyone who gives us learning from a mistake, then it’s untouchable.”
See Mistakes As A Gold Mine
Galindo works with a lot of startups. If they own up to investors about why they burned through their cash without results and say what they learned and what they’ll do differently, they’re much more likely to get more funding, she says.
“If it’s excuses, finger-pointing and blaming, it’s going to be a hard road,” she said.
Leaders can spread the mindset of learning from mistakes by how they act. “I recall one executive saying leaders have to be careful that their shoulders don’t droop,” Bohn said.
Improve By Applauding Failure
Neil Hornsby, chief executive at Cincinnati-based sports data analytics firm PFF (formerly Pro Football Focus), says learning from mistakes is vital at his firm. PFF hires people to watch each play and grade each player. It trains analysts for six months and it doesn’t expect people to come in with that expertise.
“You have to have discipline to understand that everybody fails and the resilience to get back up and make it through,” Hornsby said during a recent Northern Kentucky University sports business forum. “You can’t have people who, when they have a bad day, start circling the drain.”
When it considers hiring people, PFF gives them game film and asks them to grade players. PFF’s leaders go through what was wrong and ask if they want to try again.
“It’s amazing how many people cannot accept that they messed up,” he said. “Failure is the first action in learning. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn.”
He had a team that spent three months redesigning the front page of the website, but it didn’t work out as planned. It was “an unmitigated disaster,” he said.
“I went out of my way to praise them all, to tell them what a great job they’re doing and it’s OK,” Hornsby said. “Well-intended, well-meaning failure is to be applauded.”
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