Virtually every notable innovator has, at one point, talked of their failures. Their advice, from Richard Branson to the very late Thomas Edison, has been generally the same for a century: don’t be embarrassed by them, learn from them. Most people come into the business world with the knowledge that failure is just a part of eventual success. But how should you initially react to it?
Regardless of how your venture turns out – as a failure or a resounding success – mistakes are naturally going to occur along the way and how you react to them matters. Learning from them is not enough, as the public will want to see evidence of your atonement and new-found wisdom. It’s especially important during your early years, owning your mistakes will help you establish a reputation.
There are other, less obvious benefits both to you and your organization to being forthright about your past errors.
Here are some other ways that owning a mistake can help you professionally and personally.
Learn, Then Teach
When you make a blunder, people notice. The last thing anyone in the business world wants to be accused of is behaving immaturely, and actions such as covering for mistakes will only serve to ensure that reputation.
Instead, holding up your mistake for analysis may prove beneficial for your employees as well as you.
Former President Donald Trump notoriously refused to admit to any mistakes. The logic behind this strategy is simple; if you never make any, people’s faith in you will never waiver. If your boss thinks similarly, they might be a narcissist.
In reality, admitting to a mistake will allow your employees to see you as human, thus increasing respect. There’s nothing wrong with being human in business, it only makes you relatable. Given the number of tell-alls from disloyal ex-staffers and former friends, it appears Trump’s strategy didn’t pay off well.
Facing Your Fears
There’s a lot of stigma surrounding fear in the working world. Leaders are perceived as fearless, bold, innovative people with the emotional stability to negotiate any given situation. Fear in business is nothing but an obstacle to be overcome.
In that sense, fear can be extremely useful. Rather than letting it paralyze you, dealing with it head-on can be like ripping off a band-aid.
There are Scientific Benefits
Outside of the personal mental highs you’ll get from being forthright about your mistakes, there’s some brain chemistry at work as well. According to a study in Scientific American, our brains actually expand when we mess up. After your mistake, the brain begins to collect information, forming new neural paths.
You get wiser after every mistake.
Great Ideas Come From Big Mistakes
Richard James was a naval engineer who was trying to design a meter to measure power on battleships when one of the tension springs he was working with fell to the floor. This accident brought us the Slinky. Penicillin, the pacemaker and even chocolate chip cookies have similar origin stories.
Mistakes are bound to happen, so use them to your advantage.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer