Learning From Your Mistakes

I had an interesting experience with a team I was working with.  Turns out things didn’t go so well because someone forgot to do their part and didn’t actually label the schedule properly.  So nobody knew certain a event was scheduled because this one person screwed up.  I got a call the Saturday before the event from this person and the event was on Tuesday.  So we scrambled to get things going and get it off.  We were able to do it, not perfect but 85-90% of it went smoothly.  This was a record, usually it takes 10 days of constant planning and prep work.


However, the team saw nothing but gloom and doom at the end, how the board was going to have heads roll, how the top boss was going to yell at them and it just kept going on and on.  I didn’t see a problem really and I went on to cheer them up.  The way I saw it, sure, we had problems, we needed focus on the fixes and ensured it wouldn’t happen again, we also learned how to streamline certain areas to operate faster and more efficient.  So it was actually a very positive outcome because we found new ways of doing things which saved time resulting in reduced costs and made them more competitive as well.


I learned the culture had been very focused on the negative.  When things went bad, they wallowed in that for days or weeks and bringing it up again when a similar situation came about.  Comments like “remember when we did something like that, remember what happened” were very common comments.  I found this was a reason for their poor performance, not the only reason.  But a culture that focuses on the negative and views mistakes as something only to be punished, is going to create a work environment that is less than optimal.


I prefer to focus on the positive and what we can learn.  When things hit the fan, rarely is it one person who is the reason for it, this was a case where it was, but often it is a team issue.  I felt it was a good learning experience and way to shift the corporate culture from gloom and doom, to one that is more proactive.  I do this because it allows for problems to get fixed faster and for solutions to be drawn out faster.  If my competitors are off wallowing in their mistakes or getting yelled at by the boss, and my team is moving to solutions, I’m going to get the sale or keep the client.


The results of the situation were, the team quickly refocused and got out of the self pity mode and started to think up ways to fix the issues that came up so they don’t happen again and saw how they could go to the board and say “yes, there was a problem, we found the solution, we fixed any issues caused by it with the client and we found ways to save money and be more competitive in the process.”  That’s called learning from your mistakes.  It works, I’ve done it with some deep seated cultures, so I’m sure you can do it with your culture if you need to.  It’s great to see your team get motivated, this will get them going and believe me, done right, you’ll see a real positive difference that impacts your business in a positive way as well.

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