Decision & Mistake Management

“Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.” – Al Franken 

As we've all been faced with fast changing environments and economic headwind in our work life, a natural response to all these changes might be that people make more mistakes caused by the additional work pressures and/or they will stop taking decisions to prevent any mistakes from happening and to maintain a low profile ("keep your head down…"). Around making mistakes and (not) taking decisions, I would like to share some of my views on decision & mistake management as part of our management and leadership responsibilities.  

To live and work with uncertainty also means that there has to be space to make mistakes. This means that as a manager or leader you'll have to accept a reasonable number of mistakes. If of the 100 decisions we take 70 will be correct, than we have a great outcome! I rather do it almost perfect than slowly. Mainly because the cost of delayed decisions are much higher than the cost of an incidental mistake! Making mistakes is not only inevitable; it can be good to do as well! A mistake can be a blessing in disguise. As leaders we have to learn to appreciate mistakes and failures. While trying to find real new things and improvements, you’ll have more failures then successes. As you know, you can learn from mistakes and they give further direction to the search process or eliminate dead ends. 

Within many organisations quite often you'll find a focus on who to blame if a mistake has been made…. As we know that works contra-productive! Because of the “blame culture”, it’s obvious the staff members feel unsafe and most of them will be hiding to protect themselves. By the “blame thinking” within some or large parts of an organisation, an unpleasant work climate is being created.

Sir John Whitmore a former successful Formula-1 race driver and successful leadership coach, gives an example in his "Coaching for Performance" book: an engineer of the Formula-1 race team made a major mistake, which resulted in losing the Formula-1 Championship that year. The engineer had to report himself to the director on the Monday morning after the race weekend…. Everyone within the office was holding their breath, waiting for the furious screaming and jellying which would come out of the directors room... Twenty minutes later the engineer and director jointly came out of the room. They were both smiling and tapping each other on the shoulder…. On the question why the director did not fire the engineer, the director responded that now he had at least one employee of which he knew for sure that he would never would make this same mistake again! By doing this, the director showed that he genuinely cared for his employees and even more importantly; was willing and able to listen to their needs! He created the precedent that they had to take responsibility for their tasks, that they no longer exactly had to do what was expected from them, but they would take into account the embedding of their performances into the entire corporation.

“Management must be seen as supportive, not as threat” according to Sir Whitmore.

Living life and being a leader means taking risks and risks can lead into making mistakes. Rewarding of risks prevents that people will keep hiding or will not move! In my view mistakes which are being caused by someone who is being creative, who takes initiative and who takes risk, should be stimulated in every company! However; not all mistakes are positive….. Mistakes caused by a lack of knowledge, lack of focus or shortage of inspiration are unnecessary!

From my perspective as a leader, you are allowed to make mistakes, as long you’ll learn from it! You should also always focus on continuing to take decisions. Good leaders are fast decision takers!

I hope my view points will give you the power, thoughts and ideas to take decisions, make mistakes and to reward and stimulate others who do take risks. In the end this will help us to positively change the culture of the organisations we work in and it will have a positive impact on the behaviour of some of our fellow leaders who have different views on decision and mistake management! - by Patrick Driessen

“To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all.” – Peter McWilliams

“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde

Make this a Positive & Fruitful Day….unless you have other plans!

Thanks, warm regards & success,

Patrick Driessen