In a recent article, Eight Life Lessons, from my friend Chris Allen who runs Focal Point business coaching, one lesson really got my attention. It applies to business management skills and supports the techniques for effective delegation as well.
“When bad things happen, look for the bright side; ie, 'what did I learn from that?' Egypt, 'how do I keep it from happening again?' Do not dwell on it, move on! “
Certainly, this is solid basic advice but it goes deeper in a business setting. managers make mistakes. Employees fall short of goals. Obstacles and roadblocks to progress occur. This is just the way it is. The important point is what do we do about it when bad things happen?
In the business management context, I have observed too many mangers who do not really learn from mistakes. Something happens. People work around things or accept the bad result. But the lessons were not brought to light and so nothing was gained from the experience. We have all heard the oft repeated saying that “we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.” But, do we really? We should learn from our mistakes or those made by our employees but too often nothing of value is gained. That said, there is light at then end of the tunnel! Here are three management skills that will help.
- Every project or assignment should have a post-project review built into the Plan . This should be SOP for any top manager. Even when an assignment goes as planned, there are valuable lessons to be learned. As soon as possible after the completion of an important business unit assignment, convene a post-project review. Go over every aspect. What worked and what did not. Ask for input. Seek suggestions. Make changes based on the experience.
- During the course of executing a project, the manager needs to establish weekly check-points for a Status Review. This provides an opportunity for the manager and team members to discuss progress and to review problems or obstacles. When the team figures out how to resolve the issues, the manager needs to make notes for future reference. Bring the issues and solutions up during the post-project review. Establish new methods or procedures to avoid the same mistakes the next time.
- When an employee makes a mistake, or falls short of an assignment, do not wait to address it. The worst mistake is to “get to it later.” Meet with the employee asap. Discuss the issues. have the employee explain what went wrong and why. Determine how to fix it. End with the question, ” what can we learn from this or do to make sure this does not happen again?” the managers responsibility here is to make sure the employee learns a valuable lesson. then move on.
The important thing is to understand that the skill of learning from mistakes needs to be a purposeful process. Ever problem holds the seed for improvement and advancement. It is up to the manager to make sure the process happens every time and to establish this in the business units culture.