Hooray for Mistakes BY SOULAIMA GOURANI
When in life do you learn the most? I have no doubt about when I learn the most: when I make mistakes and don’t succeed in the things I am doing. I have made many mistakes—so many that it is possible to write a whole book about it! This blog post is about not being afraid to make mistakes, having the courage to share your mistakes with other people, and learning from your important mistakes. I believe that the people who have made the most mistakes very well might be the ones who also learn the most—but only if, after committing a mistake, they acknowledge it, understand the reason for it, and act based on this knowledge the next time they do something similar. When I have job interviews or carry out analysis tasks for customers, I am always very interested in learning about their mistakes and the things they didn’t succeed in because that is how I really learn about the person and the company.
Mistakes Are Fatal When I work as a sparring partner for managers, I often meet some who are terrified about making mistakes. That is really too bad because the fear stops them from trying new methods, taking chances, and broadening their horizon. Some of these managers actually believe that it is fatal to make mistakes! What do you think that attitude will do to their risk appetite, and how does that affect the organization? Personally, I think that in these years, we must have the courage to do things in a new way, and that could be anything from the way we operate a bank to how we develop new products (e.g., more open innovation). My own employees also make mistakes—occasionally more than other times. I am quite forgiving by nature. But if the mistakes are caused by thoughtlessness, sloppiness, or stupidity, then I—like everybody else—find it a bit tiring and harder to forgive. However, if the mistakes are made because the employees took a chance, wanted to create something, and pushed the boundaries, then I reward them for the mistakes that might result. There is a big difference between good mistakes and stupid mistakes—but you shouldn’t make the same mistake twice! We Grow from Our Mistakes You will not find happiness in a long career without any mistakes or shortcomings. One of the keys to happiness is to know that it is okay to make mistakes and that you have the guts to say, “Yes, it was a mistake, but now we will correct it.” I am not afraid of taking chances and doing something new and different because I know that I can handle adversity, and I am not scared about losing my “status.” When you stop worrying about what other people think of you, you can dispose of your fear of failure, and it will no longer be important to you whether you are a success or a failure in the eyes of others. Personally, I am not afraid to keep increasing my own expectations in my career even though doing so actually increases the chances of “failure” and “humiliation.” When you have considered this, you are better prepared to handle any adversity or taunt from people in the future, and you can feel much more at ease with yourself when you take chances and embark on new projects. Many managers—in my experience, often the ones from the baby boomer generation—lack respect for the concept of learning through mistakes, and their attitude rubs off on their coworkers, who become afraid of making mistakes (this fear can seriously cripple an organization). We see, for example, whole generations of proud people from various trades (e.g., doctors) who are afraid to talk about their mistakes. Everybody commits mistakes—the question is just whether or not we learn from them, and that is best done by sharing them with others.
Blog From Soulaima Gourani