I’ve written a couple of blogs on the topic of making mistakes. Perhaps because I’ve made so many, I feel like an “expert” on them? I’ve talked about how to plan for them, and more importantly, how they are an integral, perhaps even necessary part of the learning process. Several recent experiences – both personal and professional – brought home for me the need to reacquaint myself with the concept of learning how to make the most of my mistakes.

Difficult times are inevitable in all spheres of life. Whether it’s a problematic purchase or a struggling “slam dunk” hire, the ability to see some of the positive aspects of a mistake or failure is an essential component of growth for both you and your organization.

How can we as team members and leaders take steps to both create and sustain an environment where taking actions or making decisions is a part of the culture of success?

I’m suggesting two ways:

#1 – Review projects that didn’t pan out, new processes that didn’t solve the problem, or other areas where you think mistakes were made. This should not be seen by anyone as an exercise in finger pointing but rather a realistic approach focused on seeking out those small, often overlooked “grains of success” amidst the “rubble” of a mistake. What can you and your team learn from the results that can be used the next time?  It bears reminding both you and your team that every mistake presents an opportunity to learn, even if that opportunity is not immediately present!

#2 – Try to ensure that the members of your team have an energetic, optimistic attitude. Include it as an attribute that you look for when recruiting or considering promotions. One of the biggest keys to successfully seeing problems as opportunities is to have a “glass half full” attitude among your team.

The reality is, many of the gains to be realized from looking at mistakes as opportunities come down to attitude and self-awareness. Your moods and perspectives are likely among the most powerful factors in setting the tone for those around you. If you are in a leadership position, it is even more essential to recognize that you are most likely the biggest influence on the environment that surrounds the folks on your team.

Albert Einstein once remarked that “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. He was likely a little more far-sighted than most of us… but isn’t that a difficulty itself?

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By Harold Hay

Financial Management


Visit Osborne-group.com for other Principals’ ideas and opinions on a range of topics. The Osborne Group provides interim executive management, consulting and project support across all sectors and over a broad scope of service areas.

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