I Dare You

Let’s face it – we all make mistakes … every day. And most of us never stop to think about them. Because making mistakes is bad. Making mistakes leads to blame. Making mistakes shows up your weaknesses. Making mistakes can cut careers short.

So we cut them out of our professional storyline. These spots of dirt on our vita. We polish, we rephrase, we reinterpret, we twist … until a seamless success story emerges and becomes the story of our lives.

What fools we are! How short sighted as we look at life! Robbing ourselves of the opportunity to learn, to satisfy our natural curiosity and to develop our talents. Every child learns through trial and error. Why would we deny ourselves the same opportunity to grow? When did we stop to be curious?

Probably when we entered “the system”, in which a drive to perfection seemingly contradicts the necessity to make mistakes in order to learn. It starts at school and continues throughout our working lives firmly kept in place by corporate cultures claiming to tolerate mistakes. Sadly this is often lip service. Thus the mistakes we make become powerful ammunition in the fight for career progression.

I dare you – to see that mistakes are so much more than reasons to blame others and to get ahead. I dare you to accept they are mirroring everybody’s greatest potential to grow. They help us to learn where our true strengths lie. They help us to feel inspired and to motivate our teams. In fact, mistakes and our learning from them is what helps us to work to our best and through this progress out career.

One of my line managers once summoned me into his office. We had just discovered we made a mistake on a client’s business resulting in quite a number of posters having to be reprinted. I was terrified as I had only just taken on this international account. Being blamed for something that had happened before I even joined the team was not at all how I had envisaged to start making an impact.

My boss had me report the damage done to the business and then asked me to come back the next day with answers to the following three questions:

How did this mistake happen?
What are the consequences?
How will we as a team ensure this mistake never happened again?

It took me a couple of years and significantly more experience in the business to understand that blame had nothing to do with this approach to the issue. It was the learning that was the critical point and the desire to ensure this sort of thing would never happen again – at least with this team, on this account, under my watch.

Once I got over my insecurities and initial panic, I learned a lot from this episode. I learned that being accountable as a team allows everybody to learn for the future. I learned that through this evident weakness we managed to create new strength in our team as it helped us to exercise transparent communication, allowed us to bond as individuals and through this to focus on delivering the best possible output for our client. This was the start of a collaborative process within the agency team allowing us to deliver again and again and through this building a strong client agency relationship as well as our careers.

I dare you …
… to embrace your mistakes and the mistakes of others.
… to take time to analyse and learn from the mistakes.
… to use your learnings to strengthen your and your team’s talents.
… to build collaborative processes within your team.

Try it … you may just be surprised.