So You Screwed Up …
Few things change us more than mistakes. Sadly, mistakes make people feel dumb, even though they are the path to wisdom.
Not making mistakes is worse than making them.
Sometimes the best way to
move forward is looking back.
Rather than ignoring mistakes, relive them.
I asked, Irv Rothman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Financial Services, about making mistakes. He said, “We lost a big account last year.” Irv explained how he sat down with the team who lost the account and went back through the decision-making process looking for things they could have done differently.
Learning from mistakes means:
- Reliving them.
- Uncovering shortfalls.
- Determining alternatives.
- Moving forward.
10 Reasons mistakes happen:
- Please others while ignoring your gut.
- Confusing instructions.
- Listening to the wrong people. Listen to those with experience. Additionally: Listen to those who have power to reward, punish, and make decisions.
- The “wrong” people are assigned to teams and tasks.
- Quick reactions.
- People are tired, overworked, or over-stressed.
- Acting on your own without seek advice.
- Confidence surpasses competence – arrogance.
- Lack of training.
See more reasons on Leadership Freak Coffee Shop.
It’s one thing to accept that mistakes happen. It’s another to suggest they don’t matter. Repeating the same mistake over and over is a mistake.
7 more ways to learn from mistakes:
- Own them. “I screwed up,” takes you further than, “It’s your fault.”
- Publicly declare them. Hiding mistakes inspires self-protective cultures. Declaring, even celebrating mistakes, instills confidence. Top leadership must lead the way when it comes to publicly declaring mistakes.
- Determine causes.
- Reject defensiveness. Amy Jones
- Create alternatives.
- Teach others what you wish you would have done. Marlene Chism
- Learn from the mistakes of others. David Frick
See more ideas on Leadership Freak Coffee Shop.
Recommended reading: “Out Executing the Competition” by Irv Rothman
What mistake-making advice can you add?
What whoppers have you learned from?
Hi Dan, Some of the most valuable lessons I learned early in my careeer were from the mistakes I made and being told by a great boss that mistakes were OK as long as you didn’t repeat the same one. Talk about building a trusting relationship, that was very impactive to me as a young leader. Also, I learned a lot by watching other leaders and asking myself if I would have handled that situation the same way. As you can imagine I saw things I liked, but as important, things that I thought were terrible and sometimes demeaning to others. Observation of others can be a very useful tool in leadership development. Best wishes. Don
Don, Thank you for your contribution. You illustrate the profound power a leader has to propel others into success. I had coffee with a guy a couple days ago who recounted a boss who never let him forget a mistake. He’s not with that person anymore. He said his boss today asked, “did you learn anything?” And then everyone moves on. Guess where he is going to stay?
Nice examples of how reflecting and looking at the root causes helps you to learn and prevent similar problems in the future. Thanks Dan!
Thank you Benlinders. A good word feels good.
We can learn a great deal from our mistakes if we review them in the clear light of day, and get beyond blaming ourselves or others. There is a big difference between revieweing a mistake and wallowing in it. We cannot let fear keep us from trying again or pressing forward.
It is also good to share the errors with others so that everyone can learn from it. The best way we can help many people is by letting them see that we are also capable of folly, admitting it, laughing about it when appropriate, learning from it and moving on a little bit wiser.
Great point Martina, a bit of time and distance often does bring more clarity to the process.
Dan, I love this topic, because i have great experience here.
In one case. 10 years ago when I was at KFC, I took over the marketing budget and did not completely understand that the accountants were accruing money on the balance sheet (this was MY fault).
So, with one month left in the year, we discovered that we had overspent our marketing budget by $1,000,000 (yes, ONE million $). We almost missed our target that year, and the CFO’s exact words were “I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.” That was a whopper.
But, I took complete accountability,did not try to cover anything up, admitted my mistake, and then learned from it; even creating a formal process so that it would not happen again to anyone, which I presented to the ET. That mistake did not hold back my career, as I still was promoted shortly thereafter.
Because the execuitive team did not “throw me under the bus,” and accepted my apology and correction steps; my loyalty to them, and to that CFO, (as the grinch would say) “grew three sizes that day.”
It was an expensive lesson; but handling it just like you write made all of the difference.
Owning a mistake demonstrates great courage and vulnerability simultaneously. Couple these traits with LEARNING from the mistake is the hallmark of a great leader. When a leader is not afraid to make mistakes, they can seek out great opportunities..some will be great and some will fail. Kudos to you and the executive team a KFC. It sounds like a fantastic environment to work in.
If you were walking down the street and fell down, you wouldn’t ignore it. You would pick yourself up and carry on. Yes, you might be embarrassed and you might be scuffed up a bit, but life wouldn’t stop.
Your professional and personal mistakes shouldn’t be much different. They are “fallings”, not failings. You fell down. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on.
Knowing you can learn from your mistakes and that they represent opportunities for growth is a key mindset shift we all need to make. It accelerates personal growth and opens your teams up to being freer with themselves; allowing them to safely stretch.
I like Martina’s reference to sharing our errors with others. In a recent training session I facilitated, a participant shared that one thing he had really enjoyed was hearing about my mistakes! We all make mistakes and sharing them makes us more believable and provides real life examples of just what can go wrong.
being wrong is an essential step toward getting to being right.
Owning up to a mistake is the quickest way to personal growth. The longer we ignore our mistake (or worse, justify it), the deeper we become entrenched in our arrogant-style of leadership.
Great post, Dan!
When leading others mistakenly, you make the mistake of not accepting your mistake and you’ll be rewarded when those followers find out and flat it out on your face- it’s over!
Hi Dan –
Love how your work applies to ALL aspects of life, not just the work world, but then you already know that!
Based on today’s topic for your blog, I thought you might be interested in, and that you may already have read or heard about: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.
Here’s the link to the TED blog with all additional links: http://blog.ted.com/2012/09/11/5-insights-from-brene-browns-new-book-daring-greatly-out-today/
Thanks for keeping it real!
Warm regards, Donna Cerame
Art & Soul NJ, LLC Your Life Is Your Masterpiece 266 North Mountain Ave Montclair, NJ 07043 Studio: 973.655.1565 Mobile: 973.699.7242
A good list of reasons why mistakes happen. I think this covers almost all areas. However based on my experience and study I would add why mistakes happen- low morale, no motivation, no growth and opportunity and prevalence of fear. When employees do not find any opportunity to grow, they generally develop low morale and no motivation stage and hence find no value in doing something useful. This leads them to just showing engaged in the work while mentally disengaged. And this can lead to making mistakes. Other and perhaps most prominent reason is fear of being penalized or victimized lead people not to take decision. And not taking decision is the indecisive state and people are more likely to make mistakes.
I believe leaders are classic example to be role model and provide leadership examples to follow. Apple and Toyota are great example on how they recall and accepted the engineering infection in their technology. By doing this they could restore trust and confidence of stakeholders. I think one mistake making advice could be- encouraging people to take decisions and rewarding on accepting mistakes. I agree to your point of repeating mistake is actually mistake. So, that should be something to ponder upon why people repeat mistakes.
3.Listening to the wrong people. Listen to those with experience. Additionally: Listen to those who have power to reward, punish, and make decisions.
Are you saying yes to listening to those with experience, who have power to reward, punish & make decisions? Confused
We may have a tendency to listen to friends or those we like or who like us – often the wrong people. It’s better to listen to those with experience. It’s necessary to listen to those who evaluate our actions. Hope that helps.
“So what did you fail at today?” and “What did you learn?”
are a common questions at our dinner table.
As a mother, raising future leaders, I will be reading this post to my children (ages 7 and 4). We believe in celebrating mistakes. It means they tried something new and are expanding their boundaries. As long as they learn from their mistakes, we could not be more proud.
An 8th way to learn from your mistakes, ask yourself when will you be able to laugh about it…and then follow through. Would imagine that sooner is often better.
Mistakes happen. Until the age of 45, almost everything I’d ever touched had been golden. Then, suddenly life seemed unmanageable as I wrangled a $2.4 million business failure. It’s taken me the good part of 5 years to recover, mentally, emotionally and financially. The debt is almost gone (without bankruptcy!) but the lessons will live forever. They’ve impacted my family, my fortune and my future. Hopefully, I will use them for good and the best advice I can give anyone is FAIL FAST. Don’t torture yourself.
Liked the post and the learnings. I have seen some semi-professional organizations failing on account of reasons as mentioned in Points 3 & 8. Accepting mistakes requires a great courage but is usually at the middle and senior management level. CEOs or MDs of private/family organizations may not accept such things publicly and the indirect balme comes on the Dept. Heads or Operational Team.
Learning from mistake is the right way to recover fast and progress but accepting the mistake has a direct link with the character and values one has imbibed.
This came at the right time again, we just screwed up and lost a big part of our sales today…sigh