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A Recipe for Kneading Through Mistakes

How do you handle mistakes at work when it feels like it’s the end of the world?

“Mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before.”

This is so true. It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s not okay to repeat them and not learn from them. There’s a reason why we say “lessons learned” and not “lessons failed.”

Thomas J. Watson (founder of IBM) said, “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure.”

Yes, mistakes will bruise your ego. It can be devastating at times. To learn and grow from this terrible feeling of shame, it’s important to understand the changes you need to make in yourself.

We are not perfect; thus, we should not feel the need to be or appear perfect. A perfectionist person is defined as someone who has excessively high standards and overly critical self-evaluations. This describes me to a tee. Correction, it used to be me.

Speaking from experience, I recall many times when I would “beat myself up,” wallowing in my self-pity over a mistake. With age (life experiences), you realize striving towards perfection is another mistake – it will never happen.

Brene Brown says perfectionism is externally driven by a simple but potentially all-consuming question: What will people think? Atlas of the Heart

People will think you are determined and trustworthy when you own up to your mistakes. You won’t lose respect, you’ll gain it.

People like to follow humble leaders. To be able to say, “What I suggested didn’t work. I made a mistake, but I am grateful to have a great team that help me fix mistakes – Thank you.” is a characteristic of a strong and humble leader that people want to follow.

Try this recipe for recovering from mistakes.

  1. First fold in your apologies. Acknowledge what happened, state your mistake, and focus on a plan or solution.
  2. Then sauté in your acceptance. Refusing to accept responsibility can eventually breed contempt between you and your team. Acceptance is always the better option. It is a mature decision and a sign of integrity.
  3. Stir in some positive attitude: Bounce back. Never allow mistakes to paralyze you. Living in fear of making another mistake will stunt your personal and professional growth.
  4. Once you have done this, dice up the opportunities to adapt and learn. You must show others you can reconcile to change in the face of mistakes. This skill will help you preserve your reputation. You will also be able to provide valuable advice and prevent those around you from repeating your errors. This ability transforms your mistake from a liability to an asset.
  5. Let this marinade while you ask for help. Overcoming your mistakes will require the help of your support system. They can offer you advice and guidance. They can also provide valuable feedback that will show how mistakes occurred and ways to avoid repeating the same errors.
  6. To garnish your valuable mistake, be thankful. Openly admitting your less-than-perfect decisions can be one of the best moves you make as a leader. Your transparency can reveal opportunities for positive action and ultimately build a culture of trust.

The cherry on top is that admitting to your mistake will have a positive effect on important things like employee engagement.