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Work Relationships Matter: How Mistakes Can Serve You

  • How do you feel when you make a mistake?
  • How can making mistakes help you?

“If you don’t know failure, you will never know success” – Sugar Ray Leonard. Sugar Ray was a very successful boxer yet attributes much of his success to failure. He is not alone. There is a plethora of famous athletes, entertainers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and organization leaders who failed before they succeeded. They failed because they tried to do something different. They took risks and made mistakes which are really learning opportunities. Every mistake taught them what not to do and what to consider when trying again. Successful people will tell you that you have not failed until you quit.

I don’t know about you, but I hate to make mistakes. I want success without taking risks. Well, life doesn’t work that way. When Sugar Ray threw a punch, he risked getting hit. But by not throwing punches his risks of getting hit were even greater. Risks must be taken. There are three types of risks: careless, calculated, and unforeseeable.

My most memorable careless mistake occurred early in my career. I was charged with creating a new student orientation program. The program was well planned. We hired excellent Orientation Leaders, selected great activities, and designed educational workshops. The theme of that year’s program was “Beginnings ‘80”. Over 150 of us were going to greet new arrivals with that theme printed on the front of our t-shirts. What could go wrong? There was only one word in the theme, and it was misspelled on the t-shirt. As the program creator and coordinator, the buck stopped with me. I was careless, but the lesson was learned; take nothing for granted. Proofread.

Medical operations are calculated risks. Doctors inform patients of the chances of success and failure and then the patient has to decide. While traveling home after a vacation I met a man whose wife had a successful, albeit high-risk, back surgery six months prior. They were headed to a resort to celebrate. One mistake in the operating room or if she had made one wrong move during the recovery period, she could have been a quadriplegic. Their calculated risk enhanced the quality of their lives.

AI is a new technological tool. It has great potential for assisting people at all levels of society. However, it is not clear at this moment in time if the humans who use it will cause more harm than good. We are always looking for ways to make our lives easier. AI will definitely do that, but right now many of the risks are unforeseeable. At this point, it looks like it is worth the risk. If mistakes are made we will learn from them.

What will you do to make your workplace better? To learn more about my coaching practice, visit: