It has been said that, by the time children grow up, they would have heard "no" 200,000 times or so. This may amount to a number five or ten times higher than the number of "yes" answers
and encouraging words. No wonder that so many of us are so
uncomfortable about hearing anything that sounds like criticism
or a rejection of us or of our ideas!
The unfortunate part is that, by being closed to criticism, we
close off a channel that can truly help us grow. This is the case
personally and in our professional endeavours. By hearing of a
mistake once, we can correct it and be done with it. When we
don't know of a mistake, chances are we continue making it
again and again, making it into a lifelong habit rather than a
How about changing that and actually encouraging errors to be
brought to our attention? Recently, I bought a product from a
company that impressed me with their ingenuity in handling errors
in their software. Web Position Gold understands that their
computer programmers are human and that there is a high chance
that there may be an undetected error, even after extensive pre-
launch testing. So - they have a "$50 Bug Bounty" offer! They
offer to give a $50 credit towards their software product to
anyone who reports a bug that the company was unaware of!
What a clever idea. It does a few things in promoting a better
relationship between the software maker and its customer (the
same principles would apply in encouraging error reporting
at work or in a husband-wife relationship): First of all, just the
offer itself says that the quality of the final product is more
important than the ego of the maker. How refreshing!
Second, especially true in situations of power imbalance
(such as in a boss-employee relationship), the offer makes
it more likely for a lower-ranked person to report a mistake
to a higher-ranked person. This means that an error isn't
swept under the carpet where it can cause major damage.
Third, the "mistake bounty" makes the reporting (and
correcting) of mistakes less intimidating and actually more
fun. "I'm here to claim my mistake bounty" sounds much
different than "I'm here to tell you that you made a mess."
Fourth, the faster correction of mistakes results in
faster and smoother growth. Nobody can discount the
value of that in our competitive marketplace...
So, how can you have a personal and business culture
that uses mistakes as an opportunity to grow? Here are
just a few tips to think about:
Say "thank you for letting me know about this." Mean it!
If you find yourself about to react and explain away why
you are right, stop yourself. Instead of talking, be curious
and ask for more information when necessary.
Promise to look into the problem and to follow up.
Follow up, even (and especially!) if you conclude that no
changes can be made. Few things are as frustrating as
the uncertainty of an unresolved issue.
Say "I am sorry that this has happened." This does not
necessarily mean that you are admitting fault - a mistake
may have happened because of a misunderstanding, and
it is very rare for someone to intend to do wrong. "Sorry"
still goes a long way, even when nobody really is at fault.
Express your desire to correct the mistake and the
causes that could make it likely for such a mistake to be
repeated in the future.
Whenever possible, reward the person bringing the
mistake to you. When a discount or something of material
value is not appropriate, send a note or follow up with a
"thank you" email or voice mail.
"Be hard on the problem and soft on the people."
Ury and Fisher, in their book "Getting to Yes"
"If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z
Where X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut."
"If you want to be happy for an hour, take a nap.
If you want to be happy for a day, go fishing.
If you want to be happy for a month, get married.
If you want to be happy for a year, get a large inheritance.