My daughter arrived home a few days ago with a bright poster that read:
Mistakes are proof that you are trying.
We talked about it and I agreed whole-heartily that we have to always try in life, regardless of the perceived outcome. We chatted about her learning to ride a bike and how she always seemed to be falling and crashing in the beginning. If she had stopped at the first mistake, then she would never have moved on to enjoy riding a bike. I went to bed feeling very comfortable with the idea of mistakes.
Then I awoke to the Google news.
As you may have read, a contractor to Google mistakenly released Google’s third quarter earnings, which sent the stock plummeting, reporters scurrying, and PR professionals tummy’s sinking. Ouch!
I, for one, can never read of a huge, public failure without pausing for a moment to wait for that sickish feeling to pass. When a mistake of that magnitude happens, most PR pros can’t help but thank their lucky stars that they were nowhere near the scene when that went down.
The company cites “human error” as the reason for the early release of the quarterly earnings, which means someone dropped the ball big time and has probably lost their job, pending an internal investigation. Everyone seems to be keeping their cool publicly, but, seriously, what happens to the pro who loses the Google account? Probably nothing good!
The comments online varied from “stuff happens; move on” to “OMG heads are going to roll” to “mayhem.” To make matters worse, it seems that the news hit during a previously scheduled press conference for another Google product, which ended with reporters leaving to cover the breaking financial news. Double PR ouch!
We are human and we make mistakes. But in this instant access, push-to-publish world, do we build mistakes into the plan?
Psychotherapist Mel Schwartz, L.C.S.W., says we live in a world where we focus on being instead of becoming. An environment of economic competition emphasizes that approach to the point that we no longer have room to become anything. Growing and changing inevitably require mistakes and missteps, which no one seems to tolerate, let alone plan for and embrace. We must always be The Best at all times. For large corporations, striving for perfection seems like a competitive advantage, but is it realistic?
I believe in flawless execution. I would actually change that to my middle name if my mother would let me. It is what I require of myself and of others. It is also why I am unhappy so often. Being a perfectionist is not easy, nor is it fun. But the reality is that there is no place in this world for mistakes. No one wants to hire someone whose elevator pitch includes a focus on regularly screwing up.
I personally used to go to great lengths to avoid making mistakes, until I had a boss that corrected me. He said that he wanted to see my best first effort, not my best after 15 revisions, five days later. He trusted me to do my best and said that I had to trust him if I wanted to improve. Few CEOs approach business in that way. He is still my favorite boss.
So, what was your biggest mistake? Where do you draw the line on risk? What would an organization look like that both planned and embraced mistakes? Maybe we should ask ZipCar, Fab.com, and GlassyBaby. ~ Jules
Jules Rules on Mistakes:
:: Congratulate yourself on your failures; that’s one less lesson for you to learn.
:: Don’t just be prepared to admit mistakes, be prepared to make them.
More on mistakes: