My Favorite Mistake
Mistakes make wise leaders better and foolish leaders worse. Wise leaders learn and adapt. Foolish leaders just keep on going.
“Still learning” means you don’t know.
My favorite mistake:
My favorite mistake is thinking I know when I don’t.
Knowing is great when I’m right. Sadly, I think I’m right nearly all the time. I make up my mind quickly because my way of thinking is the “right” way of thinking.
When I’m wrong, but think I know, I create an environment where those around me have to convince me I’m wrong. They have to help me unlearn.
Unlearning is harder than learning.
Knowing too soon is deciding before exploring. I feel like I know what to do, so I must know! Right? I wish my gut knew as much as it thought it knew.
Solving the problem of knowing:
- Reject the need to look like you know. Arrogance makes us know when we don’t.
- Ask first. When you think you know, open the door to other options with questions.
- Believe there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (Apologies to cat lovers.) I don’t like others telling me how to do my job. But, strangely, it’s ok for me to tell them how to do theirs.
- Aggressively seek feedback during and after projects. Just because things turned out right, doesn’t rule out the need for improvement.
- Withhold judgement. A decision is the end of thought. Once we decide we enter defense mode.
Looking back over the years, things would have gone much better if I hadn’t known as much as I thought. I’m still learning I don’t know. Edward de Bono was right, “Those who think they know, don’t.”
Thanks to Lisa Rock for suggesting this blog title on Facebook.
How can leaders keep an open mind when they think they know?
Share your favorite mistake on Facebook.
How can leaders keep an open mind when they think they know?
It takes work and self-awareness to be able to keep an open mind Dan. And thinking that you know the answers, or worse, all of the answers precludes having an open mind while having a constantly open mouth.
I think the best ways to keep an open mind is to back down from the need to be right all of the time, learn to listen well and act upon the ideas of others when merited, and work to shine the light of praise or celebration on someone else being correct.
Closed mind = opened mouth! OUCH!! Thanks a million!!! 🙂
You remind me of Harry Kramer who said, “Stop trying to be right and start trying to DO right.”
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” ~ Socrates
BRILLIANT, WELL SAID!!!!!!!!!!!!
SHIFTERP BACK TO NOW, WHERE I KNOW I KNOW NOTHING!!!!!!
Thanks ATIG, good one.
My favorite mistake is not making one!!!!!!!!! Get it, that is like a paradox, not just one dox!
Since that does not ever happen then I got to have a way to be gentle with myself and my arrogance.
When I realize I have outgrown mentally my pants I let myself know it is ok. Hey I am only a spiritual being having a human experience.
The best way is to surround myself with connected why folks.
If our why’s are connected then we are all working together to achieve agreed upon goals. We trust therefore we can talk to one another with an above average level of trust.
When my own importance gets distorted with my ego my trusted friends can help point out I have become the self appointed Ruler of the Universe once again and I might want to reverse that position.
Also my favorite mistake part deaux is make A HUGE ONE!!!!!!!!!! I prefer to FAIL MIGHTILY than succeed with smallish stuff!
Just how I roll trudging down the road to happy destiny.
Bonus, did you know Harvard released a study recently that employees who do not feel cared about at work have a 30% greater chance of coronary disease than folks that feel people at work give a damn about them?
If you are not practicing Truly Human Leadership, SHAME ON YOU.
You are not only an idiot, you are harming God’s kids in the process.
SP Back to NOW!
I can’t tell you how many times I HAVEN’T made a mistake. Others might disagree but they’d be wrong. 🙂
I heartily belly laughed when I read that what a great gift you gave!!!
Thanks have a great weekend dear friend.
SP back to my present!!!!!
I constantly have to remind myself that I am not the smartest person in the room. The more I do that the more knowledgeable I become.
To come from not knowing is very hard. We have those darn voices in our head (fearful and arrogant) that won’t shut up. In the model I use, solution focus, we simply find ways to keep asking questions in order to force ourselves to listen. The framework for the questions is: 1. What’s working? 2. What needs to be different / better, and 3. What small steps can we take to make progress? By having people respond to this approach they come up with the answers and we hear things that were preventing us from seeing our mistake (which was just a learning opportunity we missed).
When I am in “know mode” then discussions become personal and adversarial. When in solution mode doors and windows open.
“learning opportunity we missed.” ooooo that’s good.
My favorite mistake was trying out for cheerleading SIX times. Yep, it’s true I tried out six years in a row! Who would do that? Seriously. Who?
I’m a grandma now and it is still my favorite mistake. Why? After failing 5 times, I made it on the sixth try. It taught me everything I ever needed to know about persistence.
Then I became a high school teacher. Do you know how many times I’ve told my cheerleading story? Oh, when I tell this story to high school students it is amazing. I am the best storyteller in the history of the world when I tell this story. I tell this story better than Zig Ziglar AND Joel Osteen rolled into one.
My high school students believe it is finally a success story because I made the cheerleading squad on my sixth try. But I know it is a success story because it taught me about the power of persistence. Even if I had never made the team, it would have been a success story. If you can try and fail and try and fail and try and fail and keep on trying…you can do anything.
I feel encouraged!
The visionary entrepreneurs tension is, I can do what hasn’t been done ..v. I’m not the smartest guy in the room.
..the perfectionist can add tangles to this too..
Perhaps the issue is we are confident because of what we know versus what we can learn… thanks for making me think.
Another homerun! Great read.
Coincidentally, I published MY favorite failures as three cautionary tales on my blog earlier this month. They are too long for this forum, but might be worth a view. You can find them at http://www.ParnassusAnalytics.com under the titles “My Favorite Failures…and the Life Lessons They Taught Me” Parts 1 – 3.
Glad you extended the conversation.
Fail fast and fail forward when others are more right than you are!
I’m trying… 🙂
Great challenge to leaders, Dan. I find that a leader’s false knowledge can do two things: make the team uncomfortable and destroy credibility and respect. How uncomfortable is it to confront a leader about his false knowledge! No one wants to argue with “the boss”. Instead, your team will begin to murmur to each other. When it finally comes out, our response is “Why didn’t someone tell me? I looked like a fool!”
Leaders can prevent this by building trusting relationships where fear of retaliation doesn’t exist, by asking and clarifying before developing an opinion or storing “knowledge”, and by, as you mention, aggressively seeking feedback throughout.
“If I don’t know I don’t know, I think I know. If I don’t know I know I know, I think I don’t know.” R.D. Laing.
Of course a theme running behind the post is that “right” is important.
For me that is what keeps me most honest – it’s letting go of a need to be right; accepting that you can say what you ‘know’, and being open to other new and engaging perspectives to increase what you know or understand, but which still is not necessarily right.
Good post Dan. I can relate to your confession regarding always thinking you know. The bad habit I need to address is consistently ‘acting’ like I know. I am by nature a very self confident person. Unfortunately, this self confidence is often perceived by many as arrogance, especially when addressing those who don’t know me well. It’s at those times I must remain a bit more humble, less offensive, shut my mouth and open my ears & mind. Thinking you know inhibits learning, you find yourself constantly defending your position and you remain locked in a paradigm that does ‘not’ allow you to be open and objective. Resist the urge to “be the 1st to reach a conclusion”. To reach a conclusion suggest your done, it’s over, it’s time to move on to the next objective. We all live in a fast paced world, we feel rushed to accomplish objectives, complete tasks, and to reach conclusions. Once conclusions are made, if time allows, let this decision sink in, try it on, wear it for awhile and see how it feels. When I do this I find my first impressions, (decisions), are not always rite. In doing so, taking time to evaluate my decisions reveal “I do not know what I think I know”. NOW I’M READY TO LEARN ! ! !
Geez, what is up with all these people making mistakes!! Don’t they know better, I certainly do…oops. Guess we are all human….
Perhaps the greater leadership offense is believing you righteously know when you don’t and acting on your erroneous convictions.
Humility is a harsh teacher … but she’s very thorough!
Not sure if I will say this correctly. I think it goes like this ” I never make mistakes I thought I had made one and I was wrong”. “Shrug
maybe someone else knows how it goes” LOL. Anyway another good one, thank you.
“Humility comes before the fall”
Another great post, Dan! Have a fantastic weekend!
Hey Dan! Just an FYI…I shared this article on my LinkedIn account, and Chris LoCurto commented on it, calling it “POWERFUL”! :o) Have a great weekend! ~Cheryl Todd
“Once I thought I had made a mistake…but I was wrong” 😉
When I am “always right” it alienates me from others and for others to help me gain new perspective or learn it may be too much work for them. I want to be teachable and teach. I’ve learned from my wife the best teachers are good learners. The best leaders are good followers.
Dan I sure appreciate your work!
God Bless you
My favorite mistake is that I trust every one who appears to be good. I am also criticized privately for being so good to all people and remaining transparent in sharing information. May be it takes time for me to understand the true nature of a person. It doesn’t matter much so long as things don’t harm me and my reputation.
In a professional field, it is said to be wise by remaining shrewd and not share your views unless asked for to avoid any controversy and invite criticism of seniors for remaining open. This is part of a semi-professional work culture or ‘a yes-man’ culture across some Indian organizations. I always think of an organization interest first and suggest my views without thinking much for others what they may think and comment on my back. I don’t consider this as my weakness but at times quoted as much extrovert and over wise by co-workers.
It is better to remain honest to yourself and work in your independent style for building a good respectable character what others will like once they find truth in your saying and behaving.
Mrunal: I appreciate your post and especially like todays. The transparency, humility coupled with a balance of boldness and a deep desire to reach out to others is noteworthy. Many would suggest transparency reveals our shortcomings while showing our weakness as a leader. I however believe it shows our strength by admitting I\we do not have all the answers. Admitting we don’t know is the beginning of learning. God bless your Ministry, your family, and your walk with our Lord. Your brother in Christ, Steve!
Thanks, Steve! I like your comments and the faith shown in our good habit of having transparency in dealings with others. I feel obliged with your being genius in extending support with the God’s blessings and treating me as brother.
I believe in myself with self-inspiring readings and follow good values learnt since childhood. I generally don’t believe and get influenced with short-term strategies by deceiving my own conscious.
Also love Terry Warners “Leadership and Self Deception” An all time masterpiece of thought. (but not the best written) Do you want me to get you a copy?