Most managers know and even believe the mantra, “We can learn a lot from our mistakes.”
Just think about a major on-the-job mistake you have made and then consider the lessons you have taken from that mistake. Isn’t it easier to remember those lessons that were accompanied by heartaches and disappointments? Try to remember how your leader at the time handled the situation. Did he or she help you beat up on yourself or instead, was the situation used as a strong coaching opportunity? And more importantly, if your mistake involved you taking initiative or risk, were you commended for stepping up or were you told to stick to exactly what you are told to do?
I am willing to bet that the level of learning and increased or decreased confidence that you experienced was in direct proportion to how your leader reacted to the situation. Or, if he or she handled it poorly, how other leaders interacted with you as a result of the mistake. It is important to remember that all leaders have the power to help their direct and indirect subordinates feel that mistakes are an opportunity to learn. Are you maximizing all the learning opportunities available through mistakes?