Leaders Must Use Mistakes at Work to Advantage

To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future. Plutarch

As a leader, one of the challenges you must face in the workplace is handling mistakes, especially those of your people because control over others is not as easy as control over yourself.

When you say to your people, “Don’t commit any mistake in your job, otherwise you will suffer the consequences if it will happen,” , your people will be extra careful in doing the task. But, he might not take the initiative to perform beyond his functions, such as improvement activities, for fear of committing mistakes. People who fear mistakes, says Molly Napier, make no progress.

Encourage your people to tell you immediately if mistakes occur so that they could be corrected immediately. Encourage them to admit their mistakes.  Forgive them for their mistakes, let them learn lessons from them and  resolve not to commit the same mistakes again. Stephen Covey says: People will forgive mistakes, because mistakes are usually of the mind, mistakes of judgment.  But people will not easily forgive the mistakes of the heart, the ill intention, the bad motives, the prideful justifying cover-up of the first mistake.

At work, I always tell my people to ask for some clarifications, if instructions are not clear to minimize mistakes,  because they involve costs to the company in terms of time, money and energy.  They must not pretend that they know everything. Ask, ask, ask!

Stop blamestorming. John Wooden says, A man may make mistakes, but he isn’t a failure until he starts blaming someone else.

While you must assure your people that making mistakes is no cause for worry and trembling, never allow them to believe that mistakes themselves are  “okay.” Otherwise, mistakes become a habit.

Face mistakes at work and create a task force composed of the best brains you have available to focus on and recommend solutions to the problem.  Some of the best systems and procedures were formulated and implemented out of the lessons learned from mistakes.

You might also some ideas in your mind and I’m inviting you to share them to us by leaving your comments below this article.

Your friend,

Nimia Acebes

7 thoughts on “Leaders Must Use Mistakes at Work to Advantage”

  1. Hi nimia,

    I think we dont own up to our mistakes for the fear of our egos being bruised and battered, being cricitized( even if it’s constructive), told we are wrong, insulted……

    However it’s important to accept the fact that we would make mistakes anywhere we find ourselves but must be willing to own up, take to correction and learn from it.

    Scaremongering from leaders wont solve the problem neither would fear from the subordinates. Each situation is different, but i am a believer in leaders being very firm, rational, responsible, understanding and leading by examples

  2. Hi Nimia,
    We cannot move forward without making mistakes and learning from them. In the workplace, if we are afraid to make mistakes, then we aren’t going to progress and aren’t going to push the envelope. If your employees are comfortable in their environment then they will be willing to admit their mistakes, learn from them, and move forward. Great advice.


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