Help Others Learn From Their Mistakes
Previous columns presented four steps to motivating others: inspire
confidence, demonstrate enthusiasm, ask “what’s in it for others?” and
delegate responsibly. The fifth step is to help people learn from their
We all make mistakes; successful people learn from them. None of us
learned to walk, ride a bicycle or write our name the first time we tried.
And none of us came into this world “potty trained.” Our parents helped us
learn from our mistakes.
A CEO of a large company was asked if he was going to fire an executive
whose recent mistake cost the company six hundred thousand dollars. The
CEO shook his head and explained, "I just spent six hundred thousand
dollars training him. Why would I want anyone else to hire his
experience?" We can assume the CEO spent time helping the executive learn
from the mistake.
Here are some things to do to help subordinates or others around us
learn from their mistakes.
- Don’t let a mistake go unnoticed. Not mentioning it increases the
chances it will happen again. Do use the mistake as a chance for
- Do let others know it’s alright to make mistakes and that you will
not be angry or punish them; otherwise, people will be reluctant to try
new things for fear of failing.
- When others make a mistake, help them see what they could have done
differently or how they can do things differently next time.
- Affirm their efforts by saying something such as, “I know you gave
it your best shot and I doubt very many people—perhaps none—could have
done the job better; but I believe we can learn some things from this.”
(Notice: say “we” rather than “you.”)
- Practice the “Golden Rule.” Treat others the way you would like to
Handle the mistakes of others right, and everybody wins—you, the other
person, and the organization.