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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.

Leadership and the art of getting things done: How to get more from your team

Too often, the goals and projects that can really lead organizations forward receive insufficient attention and thus experience minimal progress. Why is this? One big reason is a lack of time, but that’s a weak excuse. If the project is important you will find the time to invest in it. Another big reason: sometimes the large, ambitious goals seem unattainable and unrealistic.

Leaders are responsible for steering the organization forward to new heights. It’s your job to make the unattainable become attainable. You need to inspire your team into action and deliver results. Here’s how.

Focus on manageable, actionable steps

Imagine a large pie of pizza. If you weren’t allowed to divide it into slices, what would your approach be? How would you eat the pizza? It’s a lot simpler when you’re able to cut it into 8 smaller pieces! The same is true for large, ambitious projects.

A goal to jump from $500,000 in revenue to $2,000,000 in revenue needs to be broken down into manageable, actionable steps. What increase in revenue is needed each month or quarter to reach the end of year goal?  How many leads/calls/appointments are needed each week?


Large projects and ambitious goals are not achieved over night. It’s a long process with ups and downs and frequent obstacles. Successful leaders help their team work through the many obstacles and challenges and use them as opportunities. Leaders need to inspire and motivate their team. To do this, you should constantly remind your team what achieving the goal would mean for the company. What are the rewards? What does the company plan to do after? Take it a step further and communicate to your team what achieving the end goal will mean for them. What are the rewards for them? How will it make their job better or easier? The key is to visualize the rewards and make them feel real.


You and your team need an undefeatable, uncompromising, absolute belief that you are going to achieve the end goal. Anything short of this will not suffice. Be conscious of your own thoughts, actions and behaviors and make sure they are consistent with this notion.

The takeaway

As a leader your job is clear. Make sure your team clearly understands why the goal is important, including any rewards that will come from it. This helps keep them engaged and motivated. Also, give them something they can chew. Break down the large ambitious idea or project into bite size pieces. This helps keep focus on the goal and ensures you and your team are continuously progressing towards the end goal.