The 2nd leadership myth is debunked: Making a Mistake is Not a Sign of WEAKNESS.

This is second in a series of the “rules of leadership have changed.”

I work with an executive who is on the cutting edge of changing how her company does business.  It is a company that has been very clear about the difference between “winning” and “losing” (ergo – being right vs. being wrong). 

The company has traditionally held loss reviews when they didn’t win big deals – to determine whom to blame so they could extract their “pound of flesh.”    Their’s is a culture that rewards winners (hooray) and punishes losers (boo – get rid of the bums!).  You know, that just won’t work anymore. They may be doomed to a slow and painful death if they don’t realize their mistake.   

Here is the fallacy:  if I win, midst the celebration, I may forget to review why I won – what was strategy and what was luck.  I won’t know the difference between what I did right so I can repeat the behavior), what didn’t work (to not repeat it) and what was just good timing (luck).    On the other hand, in their culture, if I lose – then a loss review becomes a search for who to blame.  It is not an attempt to LEARN.  Maybe in the new world we should opt for LEARN reviews instead of loss reviews. 

ImageLet’s get back to this notion of making mistakes is a sign of weakness– if we are aware that making mistakes is a natural – no, important element of discovery (remember, it was Thomas Edison – holder of more than 1000 patents – who said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”)  then we can be more clear on what success should look like.  We can be more mindful of progress being made and more willing to change course or stop to cut our losses.  In that case, making mistakes become valuable lessons – but only if we hold “mistakes” to be important!

Back to my client for a moment…here’s the truth – she is more valuable as an executive who has mistakes sprinkled among her successes that she ever would if all she had known was success.  It takes courage to say with conviction, “that was a mistake” and then note the circumstances (for growth).   It take courage in a culture that would recognize ONLY winners and losers.  What’s your culture?  Are you courageous?   

BTW, we will deal with the courage of transparency in another blog.

So the second “rule” that must go is “making a mistake is a sign of weakness” or that making mistakes is bad.  The more creative way to approach change and growth is to see what works and what does not.  In the world of flexibility and change, knowing what not to repeat is as important as knowing what to do next! 

 We will spend more time on the changing rules of leadership and how to be effective in this new world. Come along for the ride, it should be fun. In fact, feel free to join the conversation – guaranteed it will change!

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