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How can you learn from your mistakes if you won’t admit you made one?

Learning from mistakes

“Learn from your mistakes.” You’ve heard the saying a million times. It’s a valuable expression. Our mistakes and failures (hopefully few and far between) provide excellent learning opportunities. They give us insights about what won’t work and leave us one step closer to finding the solutions that will work. The problem is, many of us fail to acknowledge when we have made a mistake. Instead, we look to spread the blame elsewhere instead of taking accountability ourselves. Below are 5 steps you can take to make sure you and your team learn from your mistakes.

1.) Practice relentless honesty when it comes to self-evaluation

The first step to learning from our mistakes is to admit that we have made one. For leaders, there are two categories of mistakes. One, those made by you, yourself. Two, those made by your team. The key is to bring all mistakes, both those made by yourself and your team under the same umbrella, and treat them all as mistakes made by you. In other words, when things go wrong, you should always be asking yourself two questions. One, “What could and should I have done differently?” Two, “What are we going to do moving forward?” Leadership requires relentless honesty when it comes to self-evaluation. It also requires action.

2.) Be aware of your communication

Remember, your team looks to you. They watch and observe how you respond to certain situations. Your attitudes, behaviors and actions go a long way in establishing the culture in your organization. If you’re constantly blaming others in emails, meetings and in passing, they’ll notice. Of course, it’s not a direct certainty that they’ll do the same just because you do. However, if you hold yourself accountable and are open and honest about your own mistakes, it’s much more likely they will act similarly.

3.) Avoid a culture of fear

Some companies do not tolerate any type of mistake. One mistake and you’re reprimanded in front of the whole team. Or even worse, one failure and you’re out! Your team has no time or room to honestly assess their own mistakes under such circumstances. They’re too busy fearing for their job. They’re focused on avoiding blame and figuring out who can take the fall instead. Would you rather your team fear for their job or learn from the mistakes they have or may make in in the future?

4.) Bring mistakes away from the corner

Mistakes are too often kept isolated in the corner. Meaning, the parties involved may quietly take accountability and then work out the solution within their little unit. This of course, is much better than avoiding blame and pointing fingers at others. Still, there is more that can be achieved.

Think back to a time when your days and weeks were spent sitting in a classroom. I’m sure you remember hearing your teacher saying something like, “Don’t be afraid to raise your hand. If you have a question, it’s likely someone else in the room is struggling with the same thing.” It’s the same situation in the business world. If one individual or team has made a mistake, it’s likely another team has or could make the same mistake in the future. The team that quietly resolves their mistake amongst themselves does no benefit to the rest of the organization.

Instead, you should create a culture that encourages open, upfront dialogue about mistakes so others in the company can learn as well.

5.) Putting this into action

Remember, leadership requires an honest self-assessment of yourself. Whether a mistake was made by you or someone else on the team, always ask yourself, “What could and should I have done differently?” Make sure you’re not consistently pointing fingers when communicating with your team. Instead, be open and honest about any mistakes you have made. This will encourage your team members to do the same and help create a culture of accountability. Bring mistakes out into the open. If one team member is struggling with something, it’s likely someone else is too. Lastly, always have a plan of action for correcting a mistake. Identify what went wrong, the solution, and who’s going to take the lead in resolving the issue.

Are you a leader? The importance of leadership in small business

The importance of leadership in small business

There’s a common misconception that leadership is only important in medium sized and large organizations. Some small business owners feel their company is too small for leadership to be all that critical. We believe otherwise. Whether you are the owner of a 5 employee company, or a solo entrepreneur, it’s critical that you are a strong and capable leader. The success of your company depends on it.

Still not so sure? Here are 4 areas of your business where leadership is important and tips to help you become a more effective leader.

Working with a small team

Good leaders do two important things. One, they get their teams and employees to maximize their potential. As a leader, you should constantly be thinking about ways to help your employees excel in their roles. When was the last time you asked your team members this question? “What can I do to help make your life easier?”

Good leaders also establish a culture that allows the organization to flourish. Your employees look to you for leadership. They observe and follow your work habits, attitudes and behaviors. They look to see how you respond to challenges and obstacles. Do you maintain a positive attitude? They watch how you interact with others. Everything you do sets the tone for the entire organization.

Picture your ideal team member and think about the culture you want to establish in your organization. Now think about your own actions and attitudes. Which of your habits are not aligned with this vision? Which habits are? You’ll want to build upon those.

You don’t have a team?

Many solo-entrepreneurs enjoy working by themselves and thrive under such circumstances. Many also make the mistake of actually believing they do indeed work by themselves. Even if you are a solo-entrepreneur with no employees, it’s likely you still rely on a team that you constantly interact with. For example:

Your vendors and suppliers: Your relationship with your vendors and suppliers is a big part of your business. Strong relationships require good communication. Do they understand their value? Do they understand what’s expected of them? When was the last time you communicated this to them?

Your customers and clients: Customer and client satisfaction depends on more than just good products and services. You also need to provide an overall positive experience for your customers and clients. You need to demonstrate excellent leadership when engaging with clients and customers. Consider the following questions:

  • How often do you check in with customers to make sure you are meeting their expectations?
  • How do you respond to negative feedback from clients?
  • Are you proactive or reactive when handling client issues and concerns?

Leadership is about accountability

Leadership is all about getting positive results. It’s about setting goals, identifying obstacles, coming up with solutions, and determining accountabilities. When you have a team of employees, it’s your job to help them understand their goals, take ownership of their goals, and coach them through the process of achieving these goals. As a solo-entrepreneur, it’s you and only you and your responsibilities are likely wide ranging. This process becomes even more important.

Whether working with a team of employees, or operating by yourself, referencing the organization’s long term and short term goals can help you stay focused and make proper decisions about where to allocate resources and time.

Actions you can take

Remember, leadership is about delivering good results and results require action. Ask your team members what they need to succeed in their roles. Ask yourself the same question! Think about your interactions with your vendors and clients. What can you do to improve those relationships? Think about your organization’s long term goals? What can you do to ensure your day-to-day actions are progressing you towards these goals?