Learning from Mistakes

Published on January 10, 2014 at 4:37 am

A long time ago, Stanley Ashe had the good sense to hire me as the first human resources director of his distribution company. We shared a spirited relationship but he had one strange practice: He wanted me to tell him about my mistakes. He wouldn’t allow me to leave on Fridays until I disclosed a laundry list mistakes made that week. One Friday evening, I tried to sneak out. He called out, “Lisa, I see you sneaking away! I’m disappointed in you. You haven’t told me about your mistakes! If you’re not making mistakes, you’re playing it too safe. Now get back here and tell me about all the people you pissed-off this week. I want to know if you’re learning anything around here!”

In retrospect, I see the merit of his strategy. It cultivated resilience. I learned to feel comfortable making mistakes. Thanks “Mr Ashe”!  I vividly recalled this story when I began reading Profit from the Positive, by Margaret Greenberg and Senia Maymin. In the book’s second chapter about resilient leadership, they introduce Carol Dweck’s research findings about how tasks approached from a learning perspective build greater zeal and resilience. For instance, the next time you need to delegate a challenging assignment or to take one on, encourage a resilient mindset by asking 3 questions:

1.) How can your past experiences help you in this current challenge? 

2.) What do you hope to learn from this new project? 

3.) What are some mistakes you might make? And what would you say to persuade yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes like these once in a while? 

Priming builds greater competency and resilience. When we frame new assignments as opportunities for growth, we are likely to hang in there and persevere.  Try the three questions and be sure to let me know if you made any mistakes!


This post was written by Lisa Jacobson

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