Thursday, December 1, 2011

Are You Making Valuable Mistakes?

Photo by Fozzman

If you're leading and moving forward, you're not going to get every decision right. 

Fear of making a mistake can paralyze new leaders. One way to overcome this fear is to realize that so called "mistakes" are a huge leadership opportunity.

The important thing is to make your mistakes valuable - to use them for all they're worth:
  • Treat new projects as experiments. This gives you and your team room to try and learn without the pressure of perfection.
  • When you do experience mistakes, examine the situation for what it has to teach you. 
    • What happened that you didn't expect?
    • Is it likely to happen again?
    • How can you adjust your approach in the future?
  • Try not to make the same mistake twice. Your real life experiences are the best leadership text book you'll ever have...but it's up to you to apply the lessons.
  • Don't obsess on the past. Rather, focus on what you'll do next time. 
  • Try re-framing "mistakes" as learning opportunities. If you honestly did your best to gather relevant information, got your team involved, and moved forward ethically, and it didn't work out - odds are it's not a mistake - it's an opportunity to learn how to be more effective next time!
  • If you really did screw up and let down others: Apologize and do what you can to make it right. This doesn't undermine your leadership - you actually improve your leadership credibility and trustworthiness in these situations.
You can't lead without taking risks. 

Make informed, thought-out decisions with your team...but give yourself room to learn everything you can when it doesn't go the way you hope!

Take care,

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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