Mistakes that make you money!

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Chances are someone is making a mistake right now in your company, or some client is lodging a complaint or thinking about it.

How does your company deal with these hiccups? Do you see them as setbacks, or as opportunities to learn? In the day-to-day, this sounds like a small topic, but it makes all the difference in how your company grows and succeeds over the long run.

As the cliché goes, 10% of life is what happens to you, and 90% is how you respond. So…how do you respond?

The Secret: On my Contractor Conversation Series this past February, we discussed how to develop leaders. Two industry veterans (Mike Bogan from Land Care, and Shawn Edwards from A+ Lawn and Landscape) shared the same secret. They both stated that they focus on learning from mistakes and missed goals, by creating a culture of open sharing around problems and obstacles. They promote benchmarking amongst their leaders to trade best practices and help each other improve.

To put it bluntly, the best companies are not perfect, but they are relentless at allowing their people to learn from their mistakes, by promoting a positive culture of constant improvement.

Consider the following affirmations:

  • I trust my employees to learn from their own mistakes
  • We all make mistakes, lets be open about them, so we can grow as a team
  • Clients bringing complaints to our attention is a gift that keeps our business healthy

As a leader, you won’t hear all the complaints or see all the mistakes, so it is critical you develop a strong learning culture that does the right thing when you are not looking. Strong cultures are resilient. Weak cultures (and weak leaders) don’t have the patience for mistakes or for its people to learn from their mistakes. A leader’s low-trust and low-ego get in the way of growing from good to great.

To make the point, just think about some of life’s most impactful inventions that were the result of someone making a mistake. And instead of giving up, the inventor learned from it and applied what they learned. Here is a fun list of accidental innovations: Post-it Notes, Potato Chips, Microwave Oven, The Pacemaker, Penicillin, Artificial Sweetener, X-Ray Images, the Chocolate Chip Cookie, and the Ink Jet printer.

Now you may be thinking, sure Jeff, this is true when the resulting innovations become huge products, but what about the mundane mistakes?

Back in the day, we used to joke that we would be more successful if we created problems, so that we could be the knights in shining armor riding in to solve our clients complaints.

So when a client calls to complain, have the attitude of gratitude: “Thank you for bringing that to my attention” and then have a process for reviewing your recurring flaws and making systematic fixes.

And when your employees make first-time mistakes, embrace them as investments that will make you money.

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