My Favorite Mistake


Mistakes make wise leaders better and foolish leaders worse. Wise leaders learn and adapt. Foolish leaders just keep on going.

“Still learning” means you don’t know.

My favorite mistake:

My favorite mistake is thinking I know when I don’t.

Knowing is great when I’m right. Sadly, I think I’m right nearly all the time. I make up my mind quickly because my way of thinking is the “right” way of thinking.

When I’m wrong, but think I know, I create an environment where those around me have to convince me I’m wrong. They have to help me unlearn.

Unlearning is harder than learning.

Knowing too soon is deciding before exploring. I feel like I know what to do, so I must know! Right? I wish my gut knew as much as it thought it knew.

Solving the problem of knowing:

  1. Reject the need to look like you know. Arrogance makes us know when we don’t.
  2. Ask first. When you think you know, open the door to other options with questions.
  3. Believe there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (Apologies to cat lovers.) I don’t like others telling me how to do my job. But, strangely, it’s ok for me to tell them how to do theirs.
  4. Aggressively seek feedback during and after projects. Just because things turned out right, doesn’t rule out the need for improvement.
  5. Withhold judgement. A decision is the end of thought. Once we decide we enter defense mode.

Looking back over the years, things would have gone much better if I hadn’t known as much as I thought. I’m still learning I don’t know. Edward de Bono was right, “Those who think they know, don’t.”

Thanks to Lisa Rock for suggesting this blog title on Facebook.

How can leaders keep an open mind when they think they know?

Share your favorite mistake on Facebook.