A few years ago when we were starting Hourly.com a great friend (and mentor) gave me a book entitled, “Brilliant Mistakes” by Paul Schoemaker. And while I was at first taken aback by the title, after reading a couple chapters I got the message. That despite all our planning, market research and white board diagramming, that we were going to make mistakes….big ones, and rather than shrink away and be embarrassed by our missteps, that we should own them and use them to our advantage.
According to Brilliant Mistakes 99% of success are the result of prior failures, yet mistakes still get a bad rap, especially in the workplace. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to catch a segment on CBS Early Morning this past weekend on Elaine Wherry, Co-founder of Meebo (bought by Google), who not only “owned” the mistakes she made, but wrote them down in what she calls her “100 Mistakes Diary”.
Started in 2005, the Diary began in her words almost as form of therapy. ”As a first time Silicon Valley entrepreneur I had no significant management experience and of course I made a ton of mistakes. I would find myself up at 2:00 or 3:00 AM and was agonizing over the mistakes I had made in the daytime.” By writing them down in a journal it gave her the opportunity to not only get some sleep, but revisit her concerns in the morning with a fresh set of eyes and new perspective. What’s interesting is that while many of this mistakes can be attributed to the pains of creating a new way of doing of business or “disruptive” platform, others are common missteps that can plague any business and easily avoided.
What Are Some Of The Most Common Mistakes?
Venting In A Public Place – Listen we’ve all had bad days at work, but venting about a boss, project or company in public forum only heightens the issue and creates angst among the ranks. Employees need to trust that management knows what they are doing and while it’s healthy to question how things are done, it should never been done informally and for all to hear.
Over-promise & Under-deliver – Goals are great, and key to keeping a team focused, but too often I’ve seen managers who set such lofty goals and expectations that when they fail, it kills moral. Not only to people fear losing their jobs, but very often an employee will put in an incredible amount of extra time and effort, only to fail. Instead create an environment of achievement by setting expectations that can be met and far exceeded.
Quick To Hire, But Slow To Fire - When growing quickly it’s tempting to cut corners in your traditional vetting process, and hire people who you think are up to the job after one interview. While trusting you gut is important, it should not be surprising when these lighting hires don’t work out. The trick is to not let these bad decision fester. Just as fast as you hired them, you need to fire them when it becomes clear that things just aren’t working out.
Sticking To The Business Plan - A business plan is critical in the planning process of any business and creating a roadmap that examines everything from the company’s objective and target market, to strategy, competition and revenue projections. The trick is to not treat this document as the be-all-end-all gospel, but instead let it provide you focus while being adaptive to change, allowing your product continues to evolve with the market.
Obsessing Over Mistakes Made – Like Elaine Wherry we have all obsessed over some mistake made, whether we said something that blew the meeting, or made a bad product decision, the trick to turning one misstep into a success is first and foremost owning it, then getting to how & why the mistake was made, filing it away in your brain and then moving onto the next task at hand. Fear to make mistakes will only stop us from doing something really great, so go try again and fail better next time.