Mistakes are undesirable but inevitable. We can do our best to minimize the number of mistakes we make but due to our own limitations we can never totally eliminate all mistakes from our lives. What we can control is our reaction to our mistakes and this can have a major influence on the outcome of a situation.
Admitting our mistakes
It may not be pleasant to admit when we are wrong, but the ability to own up to our mistakes shows accountability. It also sets a good example for others. The sooner a problem is identified the quicker a solution can be worked out. Trying to cover up a mistake may prevent the root of the problem from being addressed or even make it worse. We do not need to broadcast our mistakes to the whole world but letting those in authority (such as a supervisor) or those it may directly affect (such as a co-worker) know can help expedite a solution. This also helps to build trust and encourage honesty.
Learning from our mistakes
Once we have acknowledged our mistake we can learn from it and move on. If we identify the root cause of the mistake we can adapt to minimize the likelihood that it occurs again. For example, if the mistake was caused by ignorance, new knowledge on how to do a procedure the right way can prevent it from happening again. Our mistakes may also identify bigger flaws in the system that need to be fixed to reduce the likelihood of others making the same mistake. If an employee does not read company reports because the font is too small and gets called out for it, by identifying the font issue, others suffering from the same predicament may also speak out and the font size could be increased.
Mistakes also give us valuable information about how things should not be done and why. This information is necessary for finding the most efficient way to get things done and to achieve optimal results. If a certain posture causes back pain, a better posture may relieve that pain and make us more productive.
Helping others with their mistakes
When we learn from our mistakes we do not only gain knowledge – we also gain experience. These two valuable assets can help us to avoid our previous errors but they can also help us to be more sympathetic to the mistakes of others. By remembering how we feel when we make errors and the lessons we have to learn from them, we can help others to be accountable and learn from their mistakes. This may be challenging since some people tend to want to keep their shortcomings private for fear that it will adversely affect their marketability. Acknowledging that we are not perfect and that we too have made mistakes may help others to see us as offering assistance rather than offering judgement. A story about our own mistakes and how we overcame it with the lessons we learned can also help put our intentions in the proper perspective.
While mistakes may cause some embarrassment we must not let that overwhelm us. It is a part of our development and learning from these mistakes make us better. By admitting our mistakes, learning from them and helping others with theirs we can encourage progress while developing our collective skills.