The Power of Our Mistakes

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Did I ever tell you why we don’t allow cowboy boots at the ITW Data Centres…?

I think the best way to honour the past and strengthen your team is to tell the stories and share the lessons.  All of them.  Especially the ones where we screwed up.  Our mistakes embarrass us.  They illustrate our vulnerabilities. It can be human nature to supress them and downplay their significance.  “I don’t want to look bad.” While completely understandable, that attitude sucks if you’re trying to build a team centered on values like honesty, integrity, and openness.

What is more, among the worst things your people can do is hide their mistakes.  That’s how they get repeated and lessons go unshared.  Who wants to work in a place where people are afraid AND they cover stuff up?

When a good lesson emerges from a mistake – the negativity gets washed away.  Imagine the power of sharing REAL stories with your clients about your team’s responsiveness and ability to stay cool under pressure. Mistakes happen, and the true measure of a technical partner is how they deal with issues. Clients want to know when sh_t hits the fan; you will remain calm and return their world to normal as fast as possible.

A great leader is the kind of person who surrounds herself with people who are brighter and smarter than she is. Great leaders show their humanity.  Don’t let your ego get in the way of great teaching and mentorship opportunities for the junior members of your team.  Share the lessons of your mistakes. Tell the stories.  Wear them as a badge.

Years ago, I once bumped the “off” button on a rack-mount UPS with the tip of some fancy cowboy boots!  That’s why we have a rule now: No cowboy boots in the Data Centre.

What’s your story?

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