Category Archives: People development

How can we learn from mistakes?

learn from mistakes

Learning from mistakes

Last weekend we watched the film “Sully”, the story of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River.

I think there are many lessons we can take from this story, ones of leadership, and going the extra mile for customers, amongst others.

But the lesson I want to focus on today is about learning from mistakes.

If you know the story, you will know that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) initially claimed pilot error, based on simulations of the lead up to the landing. Whilst watching the film it seemed so unfair to be making this accusation.

But, if there is one thing the aviation industry does well, it’s to learn from mistakes. Any mistake can cost lives, so for any mistake or near miss they always do an in-depth analysis to avoid it happening again.

This principle doesn’t just apply to airlines. In any business there are times when things don’t go according to plan or mishaps happen, albeit maybe not with quite such serious consequences.

Can we really learn from these mistakes?

Well, yes. Providing we’re able to spot the mistake, make an effort to understand the mistake and be open to learning from it.

Rather than dwelling on the negatives, reflect on what you and the team have learnt from these events.

Here are 6 ideas to help you and your team to learn from mistakes and reduce the likelihood of a repetition.

Making the transition

When someone is doing a task for the first time sometimes the only way to really hone new skills and develop true competence is once applied on the job. But if people are fearful of getting it wrong, they will be reluctant and will never get the chance to perfect their skill.

We shouldn’t expect perfection straight away. People need time to practise and find their own way of doing things, and not be afraid to make the odd mistake so long as they learn from it. Recognise and reward as they improve, even if things are not yet perfect.

Trust

Demonstrate your trust in your team members by giving them responsibility and authority to do what they believe is right. E.g. to respond to customers’ expectations and requests in the way that they see fit.

Define what levels of authority they have in any given situation, and give them examples of when they need to refer to a manager or get sign off, and when it’s OK for them to make the decision.

If and when you do have to get involved, use this as an opportunity for others to learn from the situation, by explaining your approach and why you approached it in the way you did.

Near misses

It can be easy to dismiss a near miss; no harm done.

This time…

Unless these get reported, they may be an accident waiting to happen. So encourage your team to be open about reporting potential problems and what could go wrong.  Listen to flush out potential risky situations. Have a process in place which makes this quick and easy.

Then agree what steps you can take to avoid them or minimise their impact.

Unless followed though promptly they won’t bother telling you next time.

Aim v blame

People are often afraid to report mistakes in case they are going to be blamed or reprimanded in some way. But, a failure to report and deal with problems promptly not only leads to frustrations, and later accusations of whose fault it is, but could cost you dearly in the long run if it causes long-term damage.

Encourage your team to be open about any mistakes, whether they are the cause or not.

Get people into the habit of looking for solutions rather than trying to blame others. Asking “what can I do to improve the situation?” “What’s in my control?” Rather than focusing on what’s gone wrong, or seeing it as a failure.

Own up

Admit when you’ve made a mistake – when you’re open about making mistakes your team will recognise that everyone makes mistakes. But, make sure you also focus on what’s been learnt as a result of that mistake.

(See also The Emotional Bank Account https://www.naturallyloyal.com/the-emotional-bank-account/)

Culture

Foster a supportive culture, where it’s okay to ask questions and admit you don’t know all the answers, where you’re encouraged to seek out new activities and it’s accepted that people won’t always get things right.

Give supportive feedback, and help people see their own mistakes, as well as encouraging them by pointing out what’s gone well. A culture where it’s OK to speak up if you think something isn’t up to standard; where people won’t take offence if someone suggests a better way of doing something.

Create a culture where it’s accepted that mistakes happen, the important thing is to learn from them and prevent the same mistake happening again.

Take action

If you only do one thing: The next time you or any of your team make a mistake use it as an opportunity to learn from it and move on.

Today’s top tip

Book recommendation: Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed.

An inspiring book about how we cannot grow unless we are prepared to learn from our mistakes, by understanding and overcoming failures and demonstrates how even marginal gains all contribute to success.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Box-Thinking-Surprising-Success/dp/1473613779

 



Retraining

retraining

Retraining?  I was wrong about this

Firstly, to remind you my Managing Performance Masterclass is only a week away. Who in your management/supervisory team would benefit from support with how they manage the performance of their team?

When I worked in the corporate world I ran management development workshops nearly every week.

Every now and again I’d see a name on the delegate list that I not only recognised, but I knew full well they’d attended this workshop before.

And it annoyed me.

Because I believed if they’d attended it before and it hadn’t achieved the programme’s objectives, what was the point of retraining them and getting them to attend again. If they hadn’t put into practice what they’d learnt then, the chances were simply either this wasn’t the best way for this person to learn, or they didn’t get the opportunity, support and coaching they needed from their line manager to apply their learning.

But I was wrong about this, or at least partly wrong.

Although there may have been an element of truth in the possibility of a lack of support, or it not have been the best training method for them at the time, what I hadn’t taken into consideration was that, as observed by Heraclitus the Greek philosopher:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice,
for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

In other words, when a manager came back to attend the same workshop again at a later date, the chances are they had by then got more experience and very likely were in a different situation. Even if their role hadn’t changed the chances were their team had, and they now had different circumstances affecting their team.

Just because someone has been trained in something before, doesn’t mean they don’t ever need that training again, albeit potentially in a different format.

So, if you’ve identified a development need for someone in your team, don’t fall into the same trap I did all those years ago. Listen out for some of these barriers which will prevent people being receptive to any retraining or coaching:

When you hear “I know this already”

  • Ask them to take you through what they know and how they apply this.
  • Ask what they are implementing and to give some specific examples.

When you hear “I do this already”

  • Again, ask for specific recent examples.
  • Ask, how well it’s working for them?
  • Review any bad habits they’ve picked up or short cuts they are making which is affecting the outcome.

Very often – as with many bad habits – they may not realise they’ve got into these habits until pointed out to them. (see Creating Conscious Incompetence video here) Highlight the impact that’s having and how it affects them personally. Only then are they likely to be receptive to further coaching or training.

Thinking specifically about managing performance, you or your managers may have received training or coaching on managing performance in the past. Review how successful that is right now.

  • Are all team members crystal clear on yours/your managers’ expectations?
  • Does everyone meet these expectations?
  • Are you/your managers proactive and monitor performance before it drops?
  • Are any shortfalls picked up and acted upon swiftly?
  • Are you/your managers confident in handling any tricky conversations?
  • Do team members respect you/your managers when discussing performance.
  • If shortfalls are discussed, do team members still come away from those discussions feeling positive and committed to improving.

If you’ve answered no to any of these questions the Managing Performance Masterclass next Tuesday could be just the answer to these. You might be on furlough or working with a skeleton team right now, but this masterclass will stand you in good stead for when you’re back to a full on operation.

 

If you only do one thing

Never assume because someone has received coaching or training in a subject that they are able to apply that learning – always look for evidence they can apply it, and ask, if there is anything holding them back in apply this, what that might be.