Mistakes are vital to success. They’re the fuel, the awakenings, and the pathways to achievement.
Each mistake is an aha moment, some more painful or illuminating than others.
You need your mistakes to keep moving ahead, to get better, to reach your goals. Embrace them to extract the most benefit.
Most of us hate making mistakes. The worst are the ones we get called out on, the ones everyone knows about, and those that make us look inept. Me too.
Our mistakes have an uncanny ability to put us in a strangle hold that’s difficult to shake off. Mistakes sap our:
- Self-confidence and self-esteem
- Desire to try again
- Feelings of self-worth and self-belief
- Optimism about the future
In reality, our mistakes aren’t the culprit. We are.
We’re the ones who give negative power to our mistakes when we:
- Inflate their significance (This will haunt me my whole career.)
- Attribute dire consequences (I could get fired because of this.)
- Beat ourselves up (I am such a loser.)
- Feel beaten (I just don’t have the talent for this work.)
Most of us over blow our gaffs at work. Making mistakes, though, is something we have in common with each of our coworkers, and even our bosses. No one is immune.
The old adage is true: If you aren’t making mistakes at work, then you aren’t doing anything.
Mistakes are a sign that you’ve taken action toward the results you’re being paid for. No one thinks you’re trying to make mistakes. So when you do, let it be known that you’ve learned something.
Few of us make mistakes that are catastrophic. Most of them are more like atmospheric disturbances than category 4 hurricanes.
A mistake pinpoints a situation-based skill or awareness level missing in your arsenal.
When you make a mistake, you need to figure out:
- What it was
- What caused it
- How to correct it
- How to avoid it in the future
Each mistake gives you the chance to expand your capabilities, savvy, and confidence– career assets with a real future pay off.
Instead of fearing mistakes, learn to accept and embrace them. The mistakes most detrimental to your career are the ones you keep making under the same circumstances. So you need to avoid being a recidivist.
Believe it or not, most bosses are encouraged when they see you turn a mistake into a learning moment, followed by efforts to improve.
Here are some typical mistakes and how to capitalize on them:
- Performance errors–You make an error setting up a spreadsheet, making key metrics unreliable. A coworker catches it. You see where you goofed and quickly come up with a better control that you share with your boss. Your credibility is restored.
- Relationship misreads–You put your confidence in a hard-driving coworker to complete an important part of the project you’re leading. When you ask for the status, you’re told all is well. You accept that, but when the deadline arrives, her part is incomplete. You admit to your boss that you never asked her for specifics and that you learned how not to be caught this way again.
- Naiveté–You volunteer to serve as acting supervisor for your work group while your boss is on leave. You’ve attended supervisory training, know the work, and believe you have leadership skills. Soon you realize your coworkers aren’t accepting you as their supervisor. Interpersonal issues arise and the work erodes. When your boss returns, you debrief him, explaining what you’ve learned and your plan to improve.
It’s tempting to want to hide from your mistakes, but that only devalues them and erodes your integrity. Admitting and owning your mistakes is the first step to capitalizing on their value.
When your coworkers and boss understand that you see mistakes as the way that you improve, they’ll be inclined to help you.
Owing your mistakes sets a powerful example that doubles their asset value, turning them into real career capital.