Mistakes and Meaning

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Mistakes and Meaning

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes”
~ Oscar Wilde

Last week an executive woman who I mentor contacted me and just beyond hello launched into a ballistic unloading. She could not believe the mistakes that were occurring amongst the tasks her staff were working on.  All of a sudden she wanted everyone to focus on accuracy and in this instance all that was happening were more mistakes.  She was upset and felt that every time she tried to address it, things were slipping from bad to worse.

This is a common challenge in many businesses and in a moment I let you know my client’s outcome, but, first will explain how this challenge often manifests and can be resolved with relative ease.

When it comes to mistakes manifesting into problems in business the following hallmarks are often present:

1. A negative attitude and negative meaning given to mistakes.  With much amusement many of my clients discover that the meaning they give to mistakes is something they have downloaded from childhood that is not serving them as an adult.  Many children experience the negative reaction of an adult as they make a mistake, and then label mistakes as “bad.”  Then in adulthood the natural reaction to mistakes is to see them as “bad.”  In my business experience I’ve recognised that mistakes generally occur and the most fantastic time, and I’m not being sarcastic.  Mistakes occur in times of change and growth.  So in business I have always labelled mistakes as, “potential in action.”  I love and embrace mistakes as a sign of pushing the boundary to the next level of success.

2. Seeing mistakes as a personal assault and seeking the source for retribution or at the very least a good dressing down.  How does this remind you of childhood?  Being found out, and embarrassed after making a mistake.  Never the best way to build self confidence and initiative.  So in business I see this so often.  Management looks for the source, assigns blame and demonstrates the damage, usually in the presence of others.  You can well imagine the response I receive with the attitude of finding out how the mistake occurred without looking for a person, looking at how it could be prevented or resolved even quicker in the future and looking for the person who resolved it as a means of developing strategies for effective management in problem solving.

3. Determining that mistakes are only damaging to the business and must be avoided even at the cost of growth.  Certainly mistakes can be damaging to a business, some very much so.  What is always critical though is how they are managed and resolved.  How staff are empowered to move on and strive to deliver their very best, how clients and customers affected receive sincere apology and service that goes beyond their expectations as a remedy.  This is the power of learning from mistakes and using them as strength.  Without the potential to make a mistake as a business is growing the business will not grow out of fear.  This is never healthy.

Back to my client, flipping out and losing the plot over her staff and their mistakes.  After a few minutes of venting I wanted to have a clear picture on what making a mistake meant to my client.  What were her references and experiences in life about mistakes?  Needless to say from a young age she had gained beliefs that mistakes meant a lack of care, a personal attack, a sign of failure and incompetence.  The result was always punishment.  Imagine the barriers to success my client was carrying around with these beliefs?  In her moment of clarity she was gobsmacked at these beliefs and saw how they were not serving her.  So I put it to her, what if mistakes are simply, “human potential in action?”  She tried it on and for the next few days looked at every mistake as “human potential in action.”  Dealing with the challenges from this viewpoint enabled her to come up feedback for her staff that motivated them to try a little harder, be fearless in how they tackled the tasks at hand and ultimately saw them break into a new league in the project they were working on.

maddiMadelaine Cohen Author

Lipstick Learning is an initiative of Sydney based business leader, Certified NLP Trainer (ABNLP), entrepreneur and Master NLP Practitioner Madelaine Cohen. Sharing information and joining forces with people who choose to lead. Madelaine has more than two decades of inspiration from her businesses in consumer products, sports marketing, executive coaching and healthcare. She takes a leading role in mentoring executives and training business leadership in large and small enterprises. Why? Inspire people to lead and together we can create lifetimes of health and happiness. To find out how you can lead with even more authenticity and ease, contact Madelaine through Lipstick Learning. Madelaine welcomes connection and networking so if you have something to ask or share, go for it.