Question: Everyone makes mistakes. But how do the best leaders avoid making the same ones twice?
Reflect on the Mistake
"The best leaders avoid making the same mistake twice by taking the time to reflect on what led to the mistake being made and thinking through what steps can be taken to avoid that mistake in the future. It can be tempting to want to move on and not think about the mistake again, but this is actually one of the best opportunities that you can have to learn and grow as a leader."
Change Behavior, Direction or Actions
"Making a conscious effort to change whatever led to that mistake is the best way to not do it again. The mistake might have come from a certain habit or behavior. It could be the choice of direction or course of action. Determine what it is that led to that mistake and then change that aspect of yourself."
Build Your Awareness And Accountability
"Leaders make mistakes. It's bound to happen. The best leaders learn from their mistakes, changing their perspective or behavior as a result. The first step is awareness. You can't fix something you're not aware of. Awareness happens when you're accountable to yourself and to others. When a mistake happens, make it known. Mistakes that are swept under the rug will only stay there for so long."
Acknowledge That a Mistake is a Mistake
"The easiest way to repeat a mistake is to not acknowledge that it was a mistake in the first place. Self-reflection is key. Look back at your business, study what worked and what did not, and be honest with yourself. Be open to change and understand that everyone makes mistakes. Don't let pride stand in the way of bettering yourself and your business."
Keep a Daily Log
"I keep daily log of events. There are a number of apps that remind me to note at the end of every workday. Often, I dictate via voice-to-text on my route home. Usually, I can note what happened today – the good, the bad and the ugly. A most useful work journal has a convenient search function. When trying to recall a past vague event or mistake on my part, I query my work journal."
Understand the Gravity of an Apology
"Whenever you make a mistake that warrants an apology, you must understand the gravity of an apology – it is a bond or social contract not to repeat the mistake. An apology is only sincere if it results in a change in behavior. If you aren't going to change your behavior and you apologize, the apology was insincere and you have bigger problems as a leader."
Find a Mentor to Help You Grow
"I’m a huge fan of mentors and coaches. I have three coaches and several mentors, and I read books and other helpful materials. I have frequent check-ins with people who know more than I do. It takes humility, but in order to grow and not make the same mistakes twice, you need to communicate with someone more experienced."
Find the Cause and Fix It the First Time
"The best way to avoid making a mistake again is to figure out why it happened in the first place. What it training, communication, leadership or a combination of all three that led to the problem? Once the "why" is figured out, you and your team can solve the problem, significantly reducing the odds of it happening again."
Keep a Journal
"I like to keep a journal of events throughout my week and when I make a mistake, I like to jot down what happened and how it can be fixed. From time to time, I go back and reference those notes and see how I have grown. Reminding myself of mistakes from the past allows me to not make them again in the future."
Calculate the Cost of Your Mistake
"Assign a clear cost to your mistake, either in dollars or time, and think about what that cost means for the rest of your business. Consider the first time you make a mistake equivalent to making an investment – you’ve paid that cost to never have to make that mistake again. By assigning a tangible value, it’s easier to remind yourself that any repeats are money or time that is wasted."
Find the Lesson and Change One Habit
"Most mistakes will show you that you have a blind spot that you need to clear up. Whenever you make a mistake, you should try to find the lesson that's behind it. When you find the lesson, tie it to one habit you can change to help it never happen again. As long as you keep that habit, you will always be conscious of not making the same mistake twice."
Have a Good Cabinet
"The best way to avoid making the same mistake twice is to have a cabinet of personal friends and confidants that will hold you accountable for every mistake. These are the kind of people who will quickly call you out for every hypocrisy or discrepancy you commit. People like this can be aggravating but are some of the most important individuals you can have in your life."
Understand Your Own Thought Process
"I like to reverse engineer my thought process that guided me to a mistake. I ask myself why I thought this would work and then go backwards. It's a very logical methodology that only works if you don't judge yourself. Understand the mistake happened and figure out why it happened. Don't waste precious time beating yourself up."
Focus On the Pain of a Mistake
"Mistakes are humiliating, even when only we know we made a mistake. So we minimize mistakes with a "nobody's perfect" attitude. But don't move on too quickly. Focusing on the feelings of humiliation and negativity can help you avoid making the same mistake again. But remember, be harder on yourself than you are on other people — humiliating others for their mistakes is not productive."