Learning from Mistakes at Work
“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” Winston Churchill
Yes, we all make our share of mistakes in the workplace! In fact, I think much of my own wisdom is created by many different errors in judgment and communication. It’s an art to continually develop great skills at work. This includes approaching our mistakes as a learning experience vs. a reason to explain and defend ourselves. The following common experiences are ripe for developing wisdom:
- Ignoring a Problem: Sometimes, we cringe at the thought of addressing a concern due to the fear of creating more problems; however, avoiding an issue could allow a co-worker’s behavior or a computer problem to grow into an even bigger challenge. If you are wondering how to approach someone, ask others you trust for suggestions.
- Not Communicating Enough: To make sure that your idea, belief or point is fully communicated, you will need to set aside time, reduce distractions and check for feedback and understanding. All of this takes time out of a busy schedule. Need some motivation? I often ask myself if I have the patience to communicate enough to really make a difference.
- Not Listening: This is often our blind spot. It’s hard to listen when your own thoughts and reactions are too loud or if you are sure of your own perspective. To make yourself listen, you have to remove distractions in the environment and quiet the “know-it-all” in your head!
- Being Too Self Sufficient: At the very least, it’s annoying when someone is unwilling to admit that something is beyond his or her ability. Others will respect you when you ask for help, when needed.
- Being Closed to Feedback: Feedback is the opportunity to continue to grow and change. Without feedback, it is impossible to know that things are moving in the right direction.
- Avoiding Conflict: Differing opinions, beliefs and values can clash at work, leaving people feeling misunderstood or even offended. To learn from these differences, you have to develop a thick skin and be able to experience the heat of differences without internalizing it.
It takes more than your own perspective to learn from mistakes. Wisdom comes from consulting with a trusted peer, leader or other professional. To talk about learning from mistakes, call your EAP for a free consult at 402-330-0960.
Maureen O’Donnell, MS, CEAP