We all make mistakes, we are human after all. But not admitting your mistakes can leave you in hot water and cause some serious problems at work. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 43 percent of the UK population fear failure. Of course, mistakes are never nice, but if you're really scared to admit them openly in the office, then it's possible a change needs to happen in your company’s culture. But how can this be improved? And why can mistakes actually be good for business too?
It is not easy to talk about your own mistakes. The HR department is often deemed a mistake-free environment, with people only making room for best practices. But it is no coincidence that HR also includes the term human.
This topic is particularly interesting to me and as a result, I participated as a speaker at the HR Failure Night in Vienna. Why? Well, because we can always draw the best conclusions from personal defeats. For example, while waiting for my flight to London at the airport in Vienna after the event, I held "The Radical Leap" by Steve Farber in my hand. The book talks about leadership making mistakes and teaches you how to learn and develop from the mistakes you make. After all, mistakes make us more human and accessible.
Self-esteem building, is it a good thing?
Of course, successes are good for self-esteem, but they can make us unproductive and careless in the long run. It may sound simple, but it’s only through your mistakes that you will learn. This motto seems rather old-fashioned, but it is true. Just two years ago, a professor at Princeton University in the US caused a stir by presenting a deliberately flawed resume. His CV contained all his failures; he listed scholarships he had not received or jobs he was not invited to interview for. For this, the man received a lot of praise. Everyone can fail, but it’s about how you learn from your failures that can truly boost your self-esteem.
Try again, fail again, fail better
The diesel gate scandal at VW has already shown how mistakes can have a huge impact on companies, particularly, if no one wants to take responsibility for the issue. Whereas Silicon Valley companies like Google behave in the exact opposite way. They are often quoted saying that the acceptance of mistakes is regarded as a strength, not a weakness. Instead of finding someone to blame it is more important to learn from the mistake as a company, rather than going on a manhunt for the guilty party. Only if an employee repeatedly makes the same mistake should HR step in and take action. However, having a positive culture around making mistakes does not mean that everyone can do what they want. It's about being able to debate mistakes in a productive way, without being overtly critical and judgemental.
A positive culture around mistakes pays off in the long run
Mistakes can always initiate new learning processes and they should be treated as such. After all, making mistakes also means trying out new ideas and being creative. Of course, some of those ideas may be useless, but then you know how to do it better next time.
If you make a mistake, don’t panic. Take your time and think about how you can turn it on its head and learn from the error.
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