Byron's Babbles

Expect Mistakes

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mistakes by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 3, 2022

Over the past three weeks I’ve had a small construction project going on at my house. It has been fun because my contractor is a friend who I coached baseball with and I also taught his daughter in school. We’ve talked about every day that I have been home and we’ve even added a few things to the project from our conversations. Yesterday he finished the project and he came over last night and we just sat and visited.

My post is about something that I learned from Bruce that we can apply to most of our contexts. I had decided some posts that we had left bare needed to be wrapped. So, I took it upon myself to get the materials and do the job. On the first of five that I did I made a couple of errors. Not very noticeable, but still mistakes. By the fifth post I was at near perfect craftsmanship. The next morning I pointed out my work and the couple of mistakes.

What Bruce told me was profound: “You have to expect mistakes.” He told me that if you focus on never making a mistake, you actually will make more mistakes. Now, the kind of mistakes we were talking about were not like the ones where the wrong mix of concrete was used, thus threatening the integrity of a project. To prevent those types of mistakes protocols and redundancy processes need to be put in place. In my case, however, I needed to put a notch in the wrap to allow space for the mounting bracket on the post. I made the notch about a half inch to big.

Bruce told me that instead of just getting the right amount material for the project I did, he would have gotten a little extra, expecting that errors might occur. If they don’t, you just return the material. To be clear, he was not advocating that making mistakes was not to be avoided. What he was saying was that we must face the reality that mistakes do happen. He suggested that we need to plan for them. He also added that while it can be natural to want to avoid blame and embarrassment, this is only counterproductive to moving forward. Playing the blame game at the worksite as each contractor and trade contractor points the finger at someone else only wastes precious time in coming up with a suitable solution. Owning mistakes and finding quick solutions is the key here.

The moral of this story is that we put all safeguards in place to eliminate mistakes, but we also need to expect them. If we live in fear of making mistakes or make those we serve fearful of making mistakes, we are setting ourselves and others up for making more mistakes.

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