March 23, 2016

I frequently speak to groups about how we must celebrate mistakes. No one will innovate if they are afraid of being hit over the head if they make a mistake. Unfortunately, it occurs more frequently than imaginable! Yet only those leaders who encourage innovation will thrive in today’s environment. Thus, we must consider mistakes as “good”! And we should encourage experimentation which will drive more mistakes than the status quo.

With that said, I find myself “not celebrating” that I made a mistake. I was working with a client on several projects and feeling excited with the progress and the value we would achieve; however, I failed to communicate that clearly with my client. I wasn’t following my typical process which builds communication in naturally (which we can partly attribute to innovation and partly just my mistake), and I ended up overlooking this critical step. NOT good. Thus, my objective with this note is to turn it into “good”. We all learn from our failures – and hearing about other’s failures.

One tip to implement this week:
Let’s start with what you can do to proactively avoid mistakes that will have worse consequences than you are willing to live with in order to experiment/ innovate. Put guidelines around your experiment or innovation. That way, WHEN you fail (as we are all bound to fail at some point), you know you’ll stay within your planned range of error (and consequences).

If your mistake already occurred, take a step back and think about it. How bad is it? Was anyone else negatively impacted? Perhaps not. In this case, chalk it up to a learning experience and move on. Often-times, this is the best approach.

Or did it have consequences to other people or teams that should be corrected? If so, jump to action and correct them. Don’t argue about it – even if you weren’t solely at fault. Just resolve what should be resolved. Apologize, resolve it and move forward in a positive way. In my case, this is the path I followed.

I’ve found this approach to be successful 90% of the time – after all, who doesn’t make mistakes?!? With that said, if you happen to be stuck in the 10%, do your best, resolve it and move on. Don’t get worked up; just chalk it up to bad luck in hitting the 10%, do your best and move on. Now, if you are repeatedly in the 10%, take a step back and figure out why. There is something else going on. Ask your colleagues for advice and feedback.