Mistakes are the portals of discovery.  –James Joyce

Most people fear making mistakes at work. They worry they will be seen and judged as incompetent or unintelligent or they worry they may lose their job. This fear keeps people from experimenting and trying new, bold things. In contrast, as a leader, one of the things I count on from the people who work with me is that they make mistakes. And, I count on them to make really good mistakes, not bad ones.

  • Good Mistakes are ones that are the result of bold action.
  • Good Mistakes lead to better solutions and ultimately, better outcomes.
  • Good Mistakes are the result of creative thinking and innovative ideas.
  • A Good Mistake is not a failure, it is part of an incremental path to success.
  • Admitting a Good Mistake makes you able to tell great stories to your colleagues—it makes you interesting. And the telling of it  demonstrates humility and vulnerability.
  • A Good Mistake provides one with a lens of compassion for others who too, have tried mightily and failed.

Surrounding myself by people who are bold, who take action, and who learn from their mistakes means the organization never stagnates—we never accept status quo.

Bad mistakes are ones that are the result of lazy or sloppy thinking. They reflect poor critical thinking, inattention to detail or simply lack of caring.  Bad mistakes are the ones people should be very concerned about making.  They are  avoidable, and they can indeed cost people their job.

Key to transforming mistakes into good learning is the willingness to admit the mistake. This is essential to differentiating good and bad mistakes. When an individual is willing to admit their mistake and grow from it, it betters the team and the entire organization.

As a leader, I invite my staff to share their mistakes, as certainly, they hear mine all the time.

What do you do with your mistakes? How do you handle those of your staff?

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