The art of... Making mistakes


While you as a leader are making hundreds of decisions on a daily basis, you are bound to make some mistakes. Most will not hurt, understandable or not, and are just making no difference to the overall outcome in the end. But some do.... 

There are two aspects of making mistakes I want to highlight and provide you with some insights how I believe you could deal with them. The first and most obvious moments of making mistakes is during the day to day decisionmaking itself.

Many decisions you make each day are basically based on your experience, on routine, on listening observing and acting, and sometimes on your gut feel, if little or no factual data is helping to underpin your decision. And mostly you will not stop to think about the impact of decisions other than it is for the good of running your business.

But there are moments that your will recognize that a decision has great impact on the outcome or your staff. If such a decision is ahead of you, you must ensure you have taken the time to consider all options and associated risks. Ensure you take all inputs, even solicit input if not given (also if it is not what you want to hear). And once you take the decision communicate open and transparent about your reasoning behind it.

The moment you realize your decision is not the best one ever, or worse a clear mistake, will be a tough one, I am sure. Your stress-level will reach an all-time high and your mind will work like crazy to seek support how to survive this situation. Of course those are very natural feelings. However, I believe it is very important to turn your thoughts in acceptance as quickly as you can. Acceptance that you made a mistake, skipping the emotion, and figuring out its root cause. Second step is to be open and transparent to your management and team about its cause (or if you do not know yet, just say so) and (potential) consequences as soon as possible. That means to be clear in what mitigations and consequential actions you made (or plan to make) to minimize the damage or to further investigate if you are still in the blind. At all times, even when the going gets very tough, demonstrate you are in control. Demonstrate action. And last but not least, learn!

The second aspect of making mistakes in your leadership role is linked to commitments and promises you make. Obviously, you will not lightly make public commitments and promises. But it is very likely that some will be overachieved, some will be met and some not. It is all about taking risks, if you do not take them you will not achieve anything.

Sometimes 'not met' is caused by a clear mistake from your end, like an overestimation of your decision power, or some sort of bad judgement. But mistakes hurt and is better to take the pain quickly and swiftly, while showing you are in control.

In conclusion, give the right example, be open and transparent about your doings, even if a few of them were wrong decisions. If you demonstrating your doings, also the imperfections, including how you mitigated them and how you prevent them in future, I am convinced it helps to create a stimulating environment of learning from mistakes and continuous improvement.

Obviously, if you never make mistakes this blog does not apply to you... But how will you ever learn to improve?

Fred Bosch - About Management and more - All rights reserved 2019-2022