When it comes to being a leader, there is a lot of pressure to get things right the first time. You have stakeholders, customers and your team all watching and it can be difficult to admit when we have made mistakes or failed at something we set out to do. But it happens. In fact, it happens a lot in business and how we deal with our mistakes and failures can be the difference between being a good leader or a sub par one. So, today I want to talk about the best way to handle a mistake or failure and use it to fuel growth in your business.
Publicly take responsibility.
This is one that many leaders struggle with, but is one of the most crucial things you can do to help foster a healthy company culture. If you make a mistake, own up to it. You're human, we all are, so you will mess up. Of course you will, to think otherwise is just not realistic. Maybe you missed a deadline or promised a deliverable that you weren't able to complete. Maybe you chose a vendor that wasn't a good fit and missed a deadline. Whatever it was, the first step is to publicly take responsibility for the mistake or misstep. Don't beat yourself up, don't make excuses, just take responsibility.
Share what you learned.
Once you have taken responsibility for your mistake, you are now able to learn from the mistake and grow from it. Let's say last quarter you onboarded a new vendor that would supply widgets to your customers. At first they were keeping up with orders, but recently have been unable to meet the growing demand for your products and you are having to cut ties and find another vendor. You made a mistake and chose incorrectly. You didn't ask the right questions or properly vet the vendor, and are now having to adjust course to make up for that decision. The lesson here would be to spend more time and ask the right questions before choosing a new vendor.
Apply those learnings.
Moving forward, you would share the details with your team. You would share the questions that you asked during the vetting process, and add in ones that you wish you would have asked. Maybe you would have asked at what point in the growth curve would they be unable to meet demand without a change in infrastructure? Could you have predicted the missed deadline had you known where their breaking point was? Would you have asked for references? Would you have asked for information on their other customers, so that you could anticipate where you fell on that vendor's priority list? Whatever insights you gain from your mistake, share this information with the team so that you can apply these learnings for future business decisions.
Mistakes happen. But how we handle them and how we turn them into profitable insights is what separates a good leader from a mediocre one.