Make more mistakes

Management tip: You have to make mistakes

Think carefully for a moment and ask yourself, when was the last time you made a mistake? Be honest with yourself and think hard about this.  

If you can’t remember the last time you made a mistake, then you have essentially stopped learning and you are playing things too safe.  Maybe that’s because you are in an environment where any mistake, however, small would be seen as a failure and would put your job at immediate risk. If that’s the case then, to be honest, I don’t blame you. If that is the case you should really ask yourself if you want to be subjecting yourself to such a negative and toxic environment.

As a manager, you need to carefully think through how you respond to one of your team making a mistake. Some mistakes can be horrible in the moment and may cost your company thousands of pounds to recover from. When someone makes a mistake, what do you do? Fire the person on the spot? Ideally no, think of it as expensive training. Would you fire someone who has just been on an expensive training course?

I’ve seen teams bond and build strength from mistakes, sometimes the recovery from a mistake can really bring people together.

In reality, most mistakes are fine so long as you review them in an open and honest way afterwards and capture the learning for the individuals involved and the company. Doing this well is a sign of a mature and high performing organisation.

If the same mistake is being made, time and time again then either the review and learning process is failing or there is something else happening with the individuals concerned which will need deeper review. As a manager however if the same mistake keeps happening are you sure you have captured and applied the learning correctly and fully? 

These days if you don’t make a few mistakes and find your edge and push your boundaries on a regular basis you are damaging your career development and not serving your business and customers longer-term best interests.  

Think for a moment about babies and young children, they learn to walk by lifting themselves up, taking a few steps, getting their balance wrong and learning from this. They fall over, they hurt themselves and pick themselves up and they learn to walk, then they learn to run and for some, they go on to run marathons and win races.  

The skill is knowing when to take a little risk in a safe environment and when it is necessary to absolutely get something right the first time.  I recently heard one business coach say you should be making a mistake a third of the time. I’m not sure I’d ever recommended going that far as you may end up burning too much credibility and it’s still important to be seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’, you’ll have to find a balance that’s right for you.

If you really struggle to think of the last time you made a mistake, it’s safe to say you need to relax, find your edge and learn something new. 


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