Why Acknowledging—Not Ignoring—Mistakes Matters

We’re a culture of celebration. We broadcast successes on social media, thrive on kudos, and feel entitled to credit when it’s due. None of this is disastrous. Recognition and reward are critical for relationships and engagement. Sometimes we must toot our own horn if we’re to stand out. That doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes.

But perhaps we’ve become so immersed in our own awesomeness that we’ve simultaneously become unable to sit comfortably with challenge, struggle, mistakes, or (gasp!) failure. If we are to succeed, we must find ourselves operating in a culture that acknowledges, analyzes, and accepts our mistakes so that we may learn and grow. This is cultivated at the top.

Consider the all-American pastime (and my favorite sport)—baseball. Baseball requires a certain mental toughness (“There’s no crying in baseball!”) for accepting your mistakes. Athletes in every sport make mistakes, and their mishaps are splashed all over the media in replay after replay. In most sports, however, the stats tally the positives – the touchdowns, goals, fastest time.

Only in baseball is it so fundamental to how the sport is played and followed that error stats are as much a part of the game as fielding a ball. It’s an official part of baseball to quantify and record the mistakes a player makes and to hold them in history.  That’s real candor about your performance.

Imagine if your boss kept a tally of everyone’s successes and mishaps in the front lobby. Would that feel cruel? If the culture is open and honest, mistakes aren’t something to be covered up and forgotten. They’re an important part of learning and growth. They’re an opportunity, not an embarrassment. We are holding our employees and teams back when we refuse challenges, hide mistakes, avoid vulnerability, or ignore accountability. If we are uncomfortable talking about the errors, we’ve closed the door on improvement and we’ve set a benchmark for perfection that becomes unattainable.

If every organization were as candid about mistakes as baseball, we’d find more opportunity for collaboration, development, and success.

First featured on Forbesbooks.com