Mistakes – An Opportunity or a Failure?

What Would You Do If You Know You Could Not Fail? placard with b


Last week I went to our Public Library and when I went to pay the meter – the word “FAIL” was flashing. I joked to the person close to me – “I failed the test, and didn’t even know I was taking one.”

This situation got me to thinking about mistakes. As a leader, when an employee makes a mistake how do you view it? Is it a failure or an opportunity to learn, discover and grow?

Successful people take the time to reflect on the error – what worked, what didn’t work and what can be improved for next time. This approach gives permission to team members to explore and experiment with new solutions, knowing that they won’t be punished for their learning curve.

So next time one of your team member’s makes a choice that results in less than optimal results, take a deep breath and remind yourself and the employee that this is a learning opportunity. Take the time to coach them through the following questions:

  1. What aspects of your solutions were effective?
  2. What created the results that occurred?
  3. Given what you know now, how might you approach a similar situation in the future?
  4. What are the key learnings for you from this situation?

If you fail to see it as a learning opportunity, it is likely that your team members will feel less inclined to find innovative and new solutions. Do you want your team to continue with the same old when through trial and error an even better solution might be found?

Become an “experimentor” who explores new opportunities, gains insights from what others might call a failure. You’ll find you have a team that is motivated to find the best solutions, knowing that you as their leader will support them and they can’t fail.

Consider what word gives you more energy – you failed or you learned? I’d choose learning any day of the week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>