In life, we all mess up sometimes. From leaving your keys at home to missing a deadline at work. Errors are part of being human. But I know that for many, in those moments even the tiniest screw-up can feel as though the ground is giving way beneath you – or at the very least turn your face red for a short while.
However, I think it’s about time that failure got a makeover. And I believe that there’s a simple, three-step, process to turn any crisis into a learning opportunity.
- Come clean. This might be to yourself, your boss, your friend, or anyone affected. It sounds simple but 99% of the time we want to cover up our mistakes and wish them away. This is simply human nature. Taking time to come clean might be counterintuitive at first but it will win you points in the long-term and a chance to project your narrative before one that you can’t control sets in.
- Take the time to figure out why. Retracing your steps is the oldest trick in the book. Your parents have probably trumped this line a million times. But taking a step back can help you recognise key patterns. You need to not simply explain what’s happen, but understand why. If you take the time to do this you can not only check your own behaviour going forward but also spot opportunities to help others.
- Devise a process to reduce the risk of repetition. Whilst eliminating the chance of error completely is unlikely – armed with the goodwill of coming clean and the knowledge of figuring out why – you can map out a process that will lead to earlier intervention. On a small-scale, this might mean packing your bag the night before if you know you’re forever rushing in the mornings. On the other end of the scale, this could be as wide-ranging as redesigning part of your workplace to integrate more automation in places where human error is frequent.
Ultimately, any crisis big or small is an opportunity to learn. But you’ll only move from crisis to learning opportunity if you take the time reflect and adapt. These are three steps I find helpful to do just that.
What about you, has there been a time you’ve learnt more from a failure than from a success?