Embracing Errors and Using them for Success

We all know the feeling: a word slips out, an email gets sent, and we know we’ve made a mistake. Whether it’s a clerical error that costs time and resources, or an interpersonal mistake that disrupts a relationship, missteps happen. We can’t avoid them altogether, but how we respond to them can set us apart as leaders and keep us on a path toward growth.


Here are some of the fundamentals we use to help leaders re-frame and re-think mistakes.


     1.  Consider the Alternatives: Ignoring and Avoiding

“Embracing errors” doesn’t sound great. But processing our mistakes is much more effective for us and those around us than ignoring what we did or shutting down in an effort to avoid mistakes altogether. People we consider masters in their field, art, or discipline are no strangers to mistakes. 


As Leon Ho of LifeHack writes, ‘’Each attempt [successful people] made was open to mistakes. With more attempts made, the more feedback they received, and the more chances they gained to do better.So, if you really want to avoid mistakes – attempt nothing and take no risks. Your record may remain clean, you’ll make few mistakes, but you’ll also have few achievements to write home about. In other words, avoiding mistakes is the easiest way to become and stay unsuccessful.”


Similarly, people who ignore the consequences of their mistakes don’t learn, and continue their cycles of harm or ineffectiveness. It may feel easier to “let it slide” when you slip up, but the more you do, the more trust and efficiency will erode across your teams. Over time, a pattern of ignoring mistakes can cause everything to grind to a halt.


     2. Apologize to People Impacted

Mistakes don’t happen in a vacuum. Think of the times someone on your team has dropped the ball and you’ve been left doing damage control. By the same token, when you slip up, apologies are necessary. Keep apologies simple, straightforward, and action-oriented. Instead of justifying or making excuses, just focus on repairing the situation or interaction at hand.


Instead of, “I’m sorry I was late. I know you had to do my part of the presentation, but it was outside of my control. Traffic was terrible and I just wasn’t able to get out the door on time.”

Try something like, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed my support during the presentation. I’m going to start leaving the house 15 minutes earlier to get ahead of rush hour. Is there anything else I can do to support you?”


     3. Make a Plan not to Repeat the Mistakes

In some cases, the plan to hold yourself accountable and reduce future mistakes is pretty simple. Things like leaving earlier, having someone you trust read your email before sending it, or asking more questions might be relatively easy to implement. But if you seem to be making the same mistakes over and over  and don’t understand what’s going wrong, getting support to help you dig deeper and get to the root of the problem should be step one. 


     4. Check-In Along the Way

No one wants to make mistakes, of course. Sometimes the issues lie in the systems and processes themselves. When leaders and teams are overworked, mistakes are more common. And often the systems we’ve set up to be more productive could be putting more stress on our people and piling more on our plate. Check in with people along the way. 


  • Are they noticing improvements as you work on new patterns to reduce future mistakes? 
  • Are the workflows you have in place decreasing friction, or throwing a wrench in the gears? 


Get honest answers from yourself and your team. Once you identify the gaps, you have a blueprint for what skills to develop, what patterns to reshape, and how to chart a new course with people you trust. 

Empower Your Team by Embracing Mistakes and Driving Success!

Mistakes are inevitable, but how you handle them defines your leadership and workplace culture. By proactively addressing errors, offering sincere apologies, and creating effective plans to prevent future missteps, you can foster an environment of growth and trust.

Ready to turn mistakes into opportunities?

Schedule a call with us to explore our tailored solutions designed to help you and your team embrace mistakes and transform them into stepping stones for success. We offer expert guidance, training, and support to build a resilient, inclusive, and engaged team. Together, we’ll identify development opportunities and cultivate a culture that drives continuous improvement and innovation.

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