Mistakes do not have to be a curse nor failure the last nail in the coffin, good teams and strong leaders learn from everything.
Organizations want to reduce mistakes, eliminate failures and insulate themselves from negative consequences. Focusing on failure would be an error. Persons in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) need to approach issues with the skill and precision of an epidemiologist dispatched to discover the root cause of an outbreak. There is a difference between a mistake and a repeated mistake as well as those made in the course of learning new skills and those made for lack of care. We will explore three simple principles that will assist your team to gaining from failures rather than allowing them to cause you to fall behind.
Three keys 🔑 to making a mistake count:
Ignorance is not bliss, it’s a death sentence.
What does the second most quoted English poet, Alexander Pope have to say about failure? “A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying... that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. For an organization the biggest mistake is to not allow room for employees to make mistakes. If the culture of the company is to be heavy handed with mistakes then they will miss opportunities to hear about near misses that could expedite the process of adaptation. Experimentation is a scientific process that inherently relies on failure. We theorize, we test our theories in real world applications and we learn whether our theory is true or untrue. In that process there are several steps where our perspectives were wrong and we adjust course to move closer to our goals.
Pain of failure is a lifelong professor, fear of failure will cut you off at the knees.
Writing in Psychology Today, Dr. Jeremey E Sherman makes a few philosophical observations about the natures of mistakes, “ We learn by trial and error, but learn much faster when trials are similar and errors are clearer.” Touching on the reality in life that most of us are stubborn and chose the hard road when learning something. But he elaborates on a principle that will help unlock the formula to reducing the frequency and impact of those mistakes, simplification, “The cobbler’s trials are largely the same from shoe to shoe—same materials, tools and workspace, and his errors are easy to identify—this shoe fell apart; that one didn’t fit.” This means we can either engage in simplified tasks to minimize our exposure to the potential for failure or we can work to build processes that simplify what we do. Many people in leadership will mention making their systems like McDonald’s to achieve a consistent product output. Efficiency is essential in any business, reducing waste and optimizing operational flow, as long as that process does not completely choke out any room for organizational creativity which is essential in our rapidly evolving market.
Moving forward isn’t the only measure of success as it is possible to be moving forward in an endless circle that goes nowhere. Move onward and upward.
If we know and own our mistakes we aren’t afraid to share them which allows our teams to learn openly and rapidly from them. As the market evolves we have to be willing to admit that what worked yesterday will not work today, so we are constantly evolving and thereby operating in trial and error. Trial and error is a scientific process if we structure our thoughts and experiments towards being productive in a learning culture. Failure in the scientific process is not the end of the road but a step towards truth. When the great inventors Thomas Edison was asked about the apparent fruitlessness of his labors while developing battery technology, he replied, "Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work." By admitting what hasn’t worked we can move towards what will. By creating an environment where mistakes can be shared, the lessons can be spread more expediently to assist others in not repeating them.
When failures happen we must lean into them rather than avoiding them because they often hold the keys to unlocking the next level of lessons. We often view or desire to take broad steps in our growth but it is important to remember that consistent progress can come in the form of crawling, taking small steps or wading through thick muck. We cannot ignore our mistakes, this is a recipe for repeating the same issues. We created a video that demonstrates and exposes the errors in several common management approaches to employee mistakes, you will laugh and learn.
Onward and upward.
IZ Ventures - more than business coaching and consulting, we help you connect, collaborate and conquer.
by Jon Isaacson
Risk of failure is a constant - if there is no risk of failure than there is no challenge and likely no reward worth pursuing.
The biggest risk is not taking any risk... In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. Mark Zuckerberg
As a follow up to our more extensive treatment of the fear of failure and the practice of personal risk management in the pursuit of growth covered HERE, we share the highlights of how to overcome fear. The psychological term for immobilization due to morbid fear of failure or the unfortunate is called atychiphobia. Are you atyciphobic?
If you are pursuing something that is worthwhile and has the potential for a reward on effort (ROE), then you understand there is no avoidance of risk of failure. You may fear failure, you would be stupid not to, but that fear should not be allowed to be the presiding factor in whether to do or not do something.
Failure is a reality. As a risk factor fear is a speed bump that causes evaluation, but failure by itself is not final unless it is allowed to be. Failure is a part of the growth process that causes smart organizations and individuals to learn while they weave through obstacles in the pursuit of vision expansion. A fork in the road should be a call to identify risk, resource options and develop creative solutions rather than pull the emergency break to freeze all momentum.
You are a smart person, so don't be stupid - you know that positive results are not guaranteed. Every risky venture is a growth adventure and the process will lead us as an organization or individual to learn from the process. The likelihood that we arrive at the destination in precisely the manner as planned is unlikely.
A smart process that takes on risk in the pursuit of growth must include adaptation. Our process, like a vehicle in motion, is easier to steer and adjust as we go. Don't be like the atyciphobics who are still parked in the "safety" of the garage, too afraid to take on the risk that will lead to adventure. Whether for fear of failure or as a protective measure, inaction is often the greatest risk as it will certainly lead to a negative result.
Jon Isaacson is a freelance writer assisting organizations to translate their mission and vision into story. I am a business practitioner who specializes in employee engagement, systems optimization and business development with creative solutions that are grounded in practical applications. In addition to working full time, raising a family and volunteering, Jon writes, speaks and serves as director of local facilities networking group LFMC.
How does one avoid being an idiot in the analysis and conclusions drawn from information gathered? Do not trust anything that one cannot confirm for oneself, right? Under such a premise, one must trust one’s own ability to discern information and draw appropriate conclusions. If one trusts one’s own abilities to filter through multiple points of data and infer correctly from the information drawn from, how consistently can the self-source evaluation be trusted? If one trusts one’s own self some/most of the time this may only be a safe bet some of the time at best. If one trusts one’s own self always, one can safely self diagnose one’s own self as an idiot.
If one does not want to be an idiot by way of self trust, then one may conclude that they should seek out the input and knowledge of others. When wise counsel is sought, one must still, at some point, rely upon one’s own internal discernment abilities to determine whether the analysis performed by others is reliable. Even smart and reliable people have limitations and can be wrong from time to time, so no one person can be trusted 100% of the time. If one trusts others some/most of the time this may only be a safe bet some of the time at best. If one trusts others always, one can safely be diagnosed by others as an idiot.
The only option that remains is a hybrid of the previously discussed options, inform one’s self while learning when to trust the input of others. Yet the paradox continues, can one trust what we ubiquitous analysts call the YOATKTD metric – Your Own Ability To Know The Difference. As it turns out, in the effort to avoid being an idiot, the only options are to trust one's self or to trust others and in the final analysis one very likely will find that there is little than anyone can do to avoid it.
When you have four children, Disney movies come with the territory...all of them. Every now and again, a decent one comes along. Every now and now and again one comes along that is done really well. For those of you that don't have kids and would feel creepy going to a movie theater to watch a children's movie, you may have missed Zootopia.
The brief backstory, there is a bunny, Judy Hopps, that wants to become a police officer. She is idealistic and ambitious but there has never been a bunny police officer on the Zootopia Police Department, her own parents believe the venture is too dangerous and no one believes that she can do it. As most children's stories go, the hardworking dreamer finds a way to achieve her goal, YAY! End of story, the movie is what we all thought it would be, right? Not quite.
Judy Hopps becomes a police officer, there is a big ceremony and this historic first is politically lauded while simultaneously scoffed under the breath of most. Our heroine shows up for duty her first day at the ZPD and while everyone else is assigned to beats that have significance, young Hopps is assigned to lowly parking duty. Her boss, Chief Bogo declares, "Life isn't some cartoon musical where you sing a little song and your insipid dreams magically come true, so let it go." Parking duty it is.
I'll try not to ruin the story too much but in short, Judy has a dream that has been laughed at since she was a child and even discouraged by her own parents. Ms. Hopps is able to find a way to achieve her dreams but once she makes it she finds there are still hills to climb if her dream is going to be fully realized. She excels in her original assignment and finds a means to acquire an assignment of significance that also comes with great personal risk. Officer Hopps has some initial success but reaches a point where she is ready to quit until she receives some inspiration and valuable assistance from an unlikely friend. Judy reaches what should be the pinnacle by cracking a case that no one else was able to solve. She is celebrated as a hero she is commemorated by the establishment but also makes a well intentioned blunder. She publicly putts her rabbit foot in her mouth in a big way, which proves to be a mistake that ripples into broad reaching negative impacts. Judy faces new challenges to deepen her understanding of what is important, to restore relationships, to find the resolve to create solutions as well as fight for success in the pursuit of her dreams.
The philosophy of life so often promoted is that of get rich or die trying, when the reality is that the quality of life is a richer pursuit than becoming the next mega millionaire. Regardless of the end goal, the journey to any level of success is not one large hill with an epic battle to the top it is a series of hills with many battles, surviving many deaths and continuing momentum when each sequence reveals a new set of challenges. With Zootopia the takeaway isn't as much the often repeated, if you have a dream you can achieve it but a more apt overview of life where you may achieve it but that doesn't mean the battle is over. Keep doing good things.
Jon Isaacson / IZ Ventures - More than coaching and consulting, we help you Connect, Collaborate & Conquer. #MTWSL
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