Leadership – valuing mistakes

 

Diana Bailey Essential Motion Pilates

By Diana Bailey

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes,
smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”
-John Maxwell

We, as a culture or a corporation, don’t teach people to value their mistakes. The focus is placed on success rather than the learning process that achieves it.

Disdain and criticism are common responses to an error. The overall message is that mistakes are bad, disliked, wrong or stupid, and people who make them are too. That’s not much of a value since it absolutely flies in the face of reliable, objective experience from some of the most accomplished and successful people on this earth.

Hundreds of life stories acknowledge one simple reality:The final outcome in a situation is predicted by the response to the mistake over the mistake itself. Mistakes are a place to begin. Admitting one is a great start. Realizing how to use the lesson is a turning point. Acting on that insight begins with the courage to see rather than look.

“Mistakes are always forgivable,
if one has the courage to admit them.”
– Bruce Lee

Keep in mind that the ability to acknowledge an error by saying, “I was wrong” neither absolves someone else of wrongdoing nor concedes any degree of “rightness” to their actions. To admit that you did something that did not work out the way you thought it would acknowledges your decision about only your personal words and actions. That is the essence of both accountability and responsibility. Conversely, to say “You are right” means you agree with the actions, words, and decisions of another. Be aware of this distinction.
“People may forget what you did,
but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou

Right and wrong are not a teeter totter defining the balance of power or superiority in a situation, although this often appears to occur. People will go through astonishing contortions to claim the supposed righteous moral high ground, and feed the implied message because of the deep seated human desire to be valued and appreciated by others. Watch closely and notice how good and bad get piled on top to question belonging, community, teamwork, or friendship while like and dislike wrap it all up in a box to avoid further review by anyone.

This approach is lacking a critical reality check:
Respect and trust cannot be assigned, only given and earned.
Problems get solved more often when people are safe to express ideas. Being “right” does nothing to inspire learning or build creative problem solving skills because it directs the focus away from ideas. Giving your self permission to play or experiment, without necessarily deciding on the immediate value, builds confidence and invites others to engage their own ideas. The cumulative results of this approach are reflected in progress, potential, and solution.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
– Scott Adams

The person who listens, respects, acknowledges and attends to the issue rather than attempting to categorize anyone,including themselves, attracts solutions like a magnet. Leaving space for a situation to unfold or a direction to be revised is the art of life.

 Mistakes happen even in the best of situations. So expect them, accept them, and do something to fix ’em!

Real leadership knows that setting a course means decisions have to be made according to what works rather than individual likes or personal popularity. There is so much that defines what it is to be human that mistakes must come with the territory. Responsible leaders  admit it, accept it, and move on. No more and no less.