When it comes to being a leader, there’s a lot of pressure to get things right the first time. You have stakeholders, customers and your team all watching and it can be hard to admit when we’ve made mistakes or failed at something we set out to do. But it happens. In fact, it happens a lot in business and how we deal with our mistakes and failures can be the difference between being a good leader or a subordinate. So today I want to talk about the best way to deal with an error or failure and use it to drive the growth of your business.
Take public responsibility.
This is something many leaders struggle with, but it is one of the most crucial things you can do to foster a healthy corporate culture. If you make a mistake, admit it. You’re human, we all are, so you’ll screw it up. Of course you want that, thinking differently is just not realistic. Maybe you missed a deadline or promised something you couldn’t complete. Perhaps you have chosen a supplier that is not a good fit for you and missed a deadline. Whatever it was, the first step is to take public responsibility for the mistake or misstep. Don’t kid yourself, don’t make excuses, just take responsibility.
Share what you’ve learned.
Once you have taken responsibility for your mistake, you are now able to learn from the mistake and grow from it. Let’s say you got a new vendor on board last quarter that would provide widgets to your customers. In the beginning they kept up with the orders, but lately they couldn’t meet the growing demand for your products and you have to cut ties and find another supplier. You made a mistake and made a wrong choice. You didn’t ask the right questions or vet the seller properly and now you need to adjust your course to make up for that decision. The lesson here would be to spend more time and ask the right questions before choosing a new supplier.
Apply those lessons.
Going forward, you would share the details with your team. You would share the questions you asked during the vetting process and add them to the questions you wanted to ask. You may have wondered at what point in the growth curve would they fail to meet demand without a change in infrastructure? Could you have predicted the missed deadline had you known where their breaking point was? Would you have asked for references? Would you have asked for information about their other customers so you could anticipate where you would end up on that supplier’s priority list? Whatever insights you gain from your mistake, share this information with the team so you can apply these lessons to future business decisions.
Mistakes happen. But how we handle them and turn them into profitable insights is what separates a good leader from a mediocre one.