Skip to content

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

By Karla Schlaepfer
leadership, professional coaching, learning, career

“Tell me about a time you made a mistake.” While the topic might make you uncomfortable, it’s important to know how to answer this and how to deal with challenges like Henry Ford does.🎩

This story goes like this …

One of his managers made a rash decision and tanked 💶⚠️quite a bit of money. Confronted, the manager responded in the style of a public figure🎤:

"Of course, I take responsibility for my mistake and resign 🎩 immediately."

"Are you insane," Henry Ford replied, "we’ve just invested over a million dollars in your training!"😶

Not exactly a coaching approach to leadership. But a good story!

In a #constructive “error” culture, leaders would demonstrate a more #constructivefeedback approach to mistakes. Instead of an inquisitorial 🤕manner, there would be an open conversation about what happened and why; in the spirit of inquiry 🧯 and trying to figure things out together.

Whatever happened, the main focus is on what can be learned from what happened. And not to push blame – but to use this for best learning AND to agree on #steps so that the situation is not repeated. Or what is needed (training etc) so it is not repeated.

This #perspective shift takes more effort. In the short term, it is easier to react with "naming - blaming - shaming". The conversation whips into a firestorm of accusations, venting, anger, and lecturing. Not surprising that such an outbreak is critical. It diminishes a person's #selfconfidence, stirs up fear, and can cause people to react defensively and covering up their part in having made the mistake.

Constructive conversations about errors depersonalize mistakes. This means, not classifying mistakes as personal failures. Regardless of what has happened, the situation can be used by leaders as a 🌿golden learning opportunity! This is a leadership skill that can be rehearsed and practiced with a #professionalcoach for example 😉so in the heat of the moment, you don’t overstep your boundaries.

Ask explorative questions🪄 Is there a pattern? Is this incident, a one-time thing or the tip of the iceberg?

We are all #human. We all mess up sometimes. The key is how to deal with and learn from the fallout. You should be to evaluate and learn from challenging work responsibilities, readjusting course as necessary. Sometimes it’s necessary to turn a “mistake” or “negative” (a tendency to micro-manage) into a positive management skill (the ability to delegate).

My original article “5 Reasons to Love your Mistakes” in German has been made into a #podcast that will be broadcast on March 10thhttps://lnkd.in/eandbvjc 🪄 It has more information about why mistakes are great for learning important lessons.

Listen in and drop me a line about which of the 5 tips you think is best! 👍🏼