There’s nothing worse than realizing you’ve messed up. You get nervous, your heart starts pounding a little faster and you look for the nearest hole to hide in.
I am 13 years into my professional marketing and communications career and I can confidently say I have grown the most and learned more from my mistakes than my successes. I know this is an idiom that older, wiser people say but let me give you some examples of the “happy accidents” (to quote Bob Ross) that have helped shape me professionally and personally.
Colossal Mistake #1:
For a season of my career, I was a project manager and responsible for the budget of a large campaign. I watched the project like a hawk. We were hitting our goals and the budget was right on track. We were doing awesome! And then I realized the contract was for $100,000 less than what I thought. I had been tracking to the wrong budget and we were going to go over budget…by a lot.
WHAT I LEARNED:
- Always triple-check your numbers.
- Admit your mistakes as soon as you discover them and come to the table with a solution. We were able to mitigate the overage a couple of ways (not fully), and I established additional checks and balances across our agency to make sure others didn’t have the same blunder.
Colossal Mistake #2:
In my first promotion to a manager, I had 5 direct reports and all of them were older and more experienced than me. I felt the pressure to prove my worth and thought I was providing value as a leader by always finding something to correct them on or have them do differently. Most of my team quit and I can confidently say I was not their favorite manager.
WHAT I LEARNED:
- Being a manager isn’t about proving you are more competent than your team – it’s about giving them room to do what they do best.
- The team members I lead are smarter than me in so many ways and my job is to help remove barriers, give direction, and activate the unique talents and strengths they bring to our team.
What should you do when you make a colossal – or even small – mistake?
Making mistakes is a natural part of growing, of taking risks, of innovating. How you respond to your mistakes impacts your influence and your growth. Here’s my advice:
- Own it.
If you recognize a mistake before someone else does, admit it to your team. You can build influence and trust through humbly admitting when you mess up. If someone points out a mistake, accept the feedback as a gift – they are making you a better professional.
- Learn from it.
Reflect on what you could have done differently and if appropriate, communicate that to your team. Commit to your growth and put steps in place to correct the mistake and avoid repeating it.
- Teach from it.
Share your experience with others and allow personal mistakes to build empathy and trust. The next time one of your team members makes a mistake, call upon your experience to encourage and coach.
While mistakes are inevitable, they’re part of working in an industry that requires constantly strategizing, innovating and testing. Here’s to the happy accidents. May they make us better people, better teammates and better leaders. Onward and upward!