How to make the most of your mistakes

If only we lived in a world where we never made mistakes! We don't, of course, and managers are no different. As we do err, success will come to those who learn to turn their goofs into gold. The golden rule is never ignore your mistakes - if you do, you will probably repeat them. In short, it is no crime to err; the crime is not to learn from the mistake and not to improve as a result. Turn your goofs into gold by considering the following advice...

1. Admit your mistake.

Never ignore a mistake or try to cover it up. Confession can be good for the soul.In management, it can sometimes be a very effective strategy.

Unless the mistake is catastrophic, a manager has little to lose by admitting an error. In fact, you will gain the respect of staff. By admitting your error, you lend credibility to those occasions when you are right; and your staff will be less likely to challenge your judgement if they know you are honest and as demanding of yourself as you are of them.

As well, you demonstrate that you value truth above excuses, and truth is what you will get in turn from your staff. If they know that you know that everyone, including yourself, is human, they will do their best for you.

2. Do not try to shift the blame.

As the manager, you are ultimately responsible for the final decision and for the error. Your job now is to find ways to remedy the blunder, not to find someone to blame. If you side-step accountability by manufacturing excuses or by being defensive, you lose everyone's respect. Instead of becoming a learning opportunity, the mistake will simply become another exploding problem.

3. Assess the damage.

You cannot deal with a mistake intelligently unless you know how bad it is.

Consider first its importance - there is a great deal of difference between miscalculating product sales in one district and re-tooling a factory to produce a new product line with no customer appeal. Then consider its cost - there's a great difference between a $500 goof and a $50,000 blunder. Finally, consider its implications for you, your unit, or the organisation. The significance of the damage will determine the extent to which you must move into damage control.

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