recovering from a mistake

This is a great reminder of how much we can learn from the moments we (probably) most want to forget. Create + Cultivate contributors Cassie Hughes and Gabrey Means of Grow Marketing weigh in on the reality of being human, but the potential that means we can always tap into.

Anyone who has dared greatly, innovated or made things better has also known failure. When we first set out to create our own experiential agency, we may not have known what we were doing, but we were crystal clear on what we wanted. Neither of us came from an agency background but we knew what was important from the client’s perspective and that we had something different to offer than what we were seeing in the marketplace. We knew there would be a lot of mistakes along the way and rather than shying away, we faced them head on.

Everyone makes mistakes. We’re only human. But how you learn and grow from them can help you better prepare for challenges ahead. Whether in your personal or professional life, here are a few tips to help you bounce back from a mistake and walk away stronger and smarter.

1. Recognize

Early in the life of our agency we took on a project where there were red flags we didn’t pay attention to because we were so eager to prove ourselves as a new entity, even though we had a long track record of success in our careers. It was a huge national brand in a category we were dying to break into, so while our intuitions were screaming no, our egos kept saying yes. The client was unrealistic but we thought we could turn her around. We couldn’t have been more wrong. In addition to grinding us on every budget and continually asking for new ideas (free of charge) eventually she actually became verbally abusive. We got through the project and delivered, but at a cost to ourselves and our team, who were left feeling deflated, unappreciated and exhausted.

2. Record

We are big believers in intention and writing things down. When we make mistakes we process them by writing down a list of what we learned and would do differently the next time. This was crucial to our process of avoiding bad project/client matches in the future. While it may sound intimidating to see your mistake recorded in black and white, it’s actually quite liberating. When possible, sharing your list with a friend or partner who can keep you from being too hard or easy on yourself helps to keep the process honest and, therefore, most useful.

Everyone makes mistakes. We’re only human. But how you learn and grow from them can help you better prepare for challenges ahead.

3. Repair

If you want to create an environment where people are inspired to be their best, they have to feel safe to fail. If they don’t, they’ll engage in all kinds of unproductive behaviors that only compound the mistake, from covering up to placing blame on others. Meanwhile, time ticks away and the impacts are increased.

Encouraging people to own their mistake and take an active part in the solution means resolution comes quicker and the individual is left with the empowered feeling of having helped to repair it versus the deflation of screwing up, which only makes people feel and think smaller. To repair the damage to our team from the verbally abusive client, we owned up to letting our eagerness override our instinct and shared how we would avoid such situations in the future.

4. Resolve

One of the most important parts of recovering from a mistake is knowing when to take a deep breath and let it go. Continually reliving mistakes is unproductive and paralyzing. Once you have done the work to repair the mistake and can clearly articulate your learnings, you should trust you have learned what that mistake has to teach you, freeing you to move on.

The mindset of recovery and resolution is an important one to build. It allows people to continue to want to take on new challenges and find new ways of doing things, which are really powerful assets. A culture that rewards creativity and trying new things – without punishing the misses – fosters a team of savvy problem-solvers who can think on their feet and are energized, instead of paralyzed, by new challenges.

How do you approach mistakes and try to learn from them?

Image via Sé Kipp


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