Leadership: On Making Mistakes

Because we live and work in a society where making mistakes isn’t well-tolerated, it can be difficult to see any value in making mistakes. After all, mistakes often cost us time and money, and in small business both of these resources are at a premium.

However, you might be surprised that some of the most prominent leaders in the world value mistakes-a lot. Take a look at what some of these leaders have to say about making mistakes.

Gordon Moore, co-founder, Intel
“One thing a leader does is to remove the stigma of mistakes. People who are afraid of making mistakes all the time just don’t try anything.”

Sam Walton, founder, Walmart
Sam Walton, famous for driving an old beat-up pickup truck to work even when his worth was in the billions, was fond of saying that if you keep expenses down you can afford to make a lot of mistakes!

Robert Kiyosaki, bestselling author, “Rich Dad Poor Dad”
In his book “Business School for People Who Like Helping People,” Kiyosaki recounts how he learned the process of selling: by making mistakes. In the context of sales, Kiyosaki calls it rejection. He and his sales mentor, Charlie Robinson, would make sales calls together. Robinson would say virtually nothing during the visit, but would simply watch Kiyosaki work. Then the two would return to the office and review every mistake Kiyosaki made that caused a rejection. During that time, Kiyosaki even volunteered at a charity organization, making cold calls, so he could increase his rejection rate and learn from them. The message? Make as many mistakes as you can because mistakes are how you learn.

Herb Kelleher, co-founder, Southwest Airlines
When one of Southwest Airline’s property managers made a mistake (he made an oral commitment of $400,000 to the City of Austin for the preliminary design of a new airport when Southwest had no intention of supporting the new airport), Herb Kelleher backed his manager with the money. Although the lesson was hugely expensive, Kelleher didn’t get upset. He just jokingly told the manager: “Now pal, this is a fairly expensive lesson. A $400,000 lesson-I hope you remember it!”

Does that give you a new perspective on the value of making mistakes in your small business, and learning from them?

Stephanie Valentine