Learn from Mistakes in Business

April 27, 2023

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Failure helps you grow and evolve as a leader.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mistakes are actually good for business and leadership development
  • Common business mistakes include lack of consistency and purpose uncertainty
  • Turn failure around and forget what people think, recognize small wins, and infuse transparency into your purpose

We’re taught our whole lives how bad it is to make mistakes. But mistakes are just part of being human. They teach us how to be better, and when we react to them the right way, they inform how we lead. 

In business, mistakes are important – and they’re impossible to avoid altogether. Businesses are run by humans who are, after all, imperfect. 

Focus on consistency instead of how to avoid mistakes. A consistent leader doesn’t continue to make the same missteps again and again but rather recognizes how failure breeds success.

Why mistakes are a necessary part of business

Any successful leader will tell you how often they failed as they built their business. If they don’t acknowledge this, they are not being truthful with you – or with themselves. 

I’ve run into roadblock after roadblock on my journey, but the important thing to remember is that mistakes make us better. They teach us how the world works and show us our strengths. 

There are many types of mistakes that are actually good for business. I’ve learned to embrace mistakes instead of avoiding them. This encourages your team members to be bold and creative, and you’re not as confined and siloed, either. Encourage people to take risks. They’ll feel more confident and won’t feel like they’re on the firing line when something doesn’t go as planned.

When I make a mistake, I examine what happened and question the assumptions I made that led me there. I focus on how to grow and evolve after failure. I recognize that some things are out of my control. I make things right whenever possible, and then I move on. Sometimes that means I admit my mistake and talk to my team about what went wrong and what we will each take away from the experience.

Remember that when you make a mistake, it ultimately tells you precisely what you don’t want for your business. This, in turn, helps you develop your 3 Keys: your purpose, values, and story. 

If your main goal is to avoid mistakes entirely, and that’s the message you communicate to your team, you set your business up for stagnation and lack of transparency. Your culture becomes one of hesitance and fear.

Types of mistakes in business

I want to share a story of a time I found that my inconsistency had led to many mistakes. My team was on a project with a pretty demanding client. I didn’t realize that I hadn’t been consistent in my leadership or project work, nor had I been emotionally consistent.

Then, my project lead called me out. To get my attention, she slammed her water bottle on the table, the lid came off, and water flew everywhere. She told me I needed to be consistent in words and actions because she never knew which Fran she would get from day to day or even moment to moment. 

From this interaction, I realized that as a business leader, I needed to be able to take criticism and change my behavior. I needed to be reliable.

Lack of leadership consistency is just one example of a business mistake. It leads to the entire team’s inability to function well together and more mistakes in how you lead.

Here are a few other common business mistakes:

  • The desire to do everything yourself: This is very common for entrepreneurs and business leaders. We don’t want to let go; in the process, we create unaligned teams and micromanage everything. This stifles business growth.
  • Little or no work-life balance: Another common mistake is the assumption that you must work constantly for your business to succeed. But burnout leads to inefficiency. Sometimes, the business must not come before all else.
  • Business purpose uncertainty: When you don’t know who you are and what your business is really about, you won’t be able to attract customers and grow. You need to know why you do what you do, and that purpose needs to be the thread that ties everything together throughout the business.

Turn these mistakes around with a certainty of purpose and the formation of the right team that aligns with that purpose. Rely more heavily on the people you know are dependable, and remember that there’s more to life than work!

What to do with business mistakes

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal – it is the courage to continue that counts.” 

It’s not about the mistake you made  – it’s how you move forward from it. What did you learn from the mistake? How will you turn that mistake into a success?

First, forget about what people think. You may feel like a failure simply because you’ve compared yourself to someone else’s standards. Keep your purpose at the top of your mind so you know what matters most to you. Comparison to others will make it harder to pick yourself up and move on.

You also need to recognize the small wins in any situation. Maybe the outcome wasn’t what you had hoped, but what was good about it? Even if it’s just a great lesson to educate and inspire your team, that counts as something big. 

Remember that your reactions to your own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others, act as a guide to how your team will respond to errors. When you treat mistakes as lessons learned rather than punishable offenses, you teach your team to do the same.

Infuse acceptance and transparency in your purpose and team. Make sure people feel comfortable to take risks without worry over punishment or judgment. Own up to mistakes when you make them and be open to failure, and encourage your team to do the same. Teach the team that it’s not only possible but imperative to learn from failure. This is the only way you’ll continue to grow and improve.

How Advantages lets you build your brand on purpose

I cannot overemphasize the importance of mistakes in business. Don’t be afraid of them – rather, embrace them and learn from them. Remember that failure means you have a unique opportunity to grow and evolve.

The Advantages process to unlock the power of your 3 Keys uses the powerful growth triad of Discover, Unlock, and Infuse to guide you to learn and grow from the good mistakes, avoid the mistakes that don’t ultimately serve you, and develop your foundation for success. Talk to us today to get started with purpose-driven business transformation.

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