Mistakes are often mistaken

What are mistakes? Can small mistakes be ignored? Are bigger mistakes real mistakes? What is a tolerable limit for mistakes? These are questions you deal while mentoring/monitoring/evaluating people. Here are some of my experiences with (real) mistakes.

Before proceeding further, lets try to define mistake. Wordweb says, “A wrong action attributable to bad judgment or ignorance or inattention is a mistake. Wow, what a perfect but still wrong definition to mistake from practical perspective. With the complete post it will become clearer why I agreed to disagree with the above definition of mistake. IMO, mistake is :-

  • Repeating the action even after recognizing it as a wrong action.
  • Wrong action committed with self permission for self gain. (All shortcuts to fame and name can come under it)
  • Being ignorant or inattentive with self permission resulting in a wrong action.
  • not accepting/not recognizing the right cause of wrong action.
  • unwillingness to learn the bigger lesson taught by previous similar actions resulting in another related wrong action.

Guide for Mentors/Project Managers/Leaders/Management/..

I have seen people creating list of mistakes by their juniors, staffs, team members for evaluation, mentoring etc. Sometimes we list/count mistakes that are not mistakes from practical perspective. Before I start putting more words under this title, here are few thoughts that I strongly believe in:-

  1. No Sincere person (who is committed for work and aims at the same mission if not vision) likes to commit mistakes but mistakes are inevitable for independent people. “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” says Albert Einstein.
  2. Mistakes often carries different dimensions to it, one dimension can make it look very ugly while other dimension can define beauty. Our junior programmer deleting the whole code while trying different commands is an example, he just wanted to learn and never wanted to delete.
  3. Often the gaps (knowledge gap, vision gap, power gap, communication gap) are responsible for mistakes. May be we call it mistakes due to system.
  4. Every senior is responsible for mistakes done by the junior/colleague. The learning/correction has to be recursive (deeper in system).

So as a mentor it is very important to understand the reason behind the mistake. Also such mistakes can help us in designing a better system (We shifted to SVN when we encountered code deletion by a dedicated junior programmer). Discouraging mistakes can discourage attempts and thus the chances of success too. I often make stupid mistakes but never regret for being stupid as I learn wiser things from my own stupidity. If I am often defeated by myself than I am surely on the right path of success.

Right course of action for Wrongs

I promised my parents and myself to give atleast 6 hrs of sleep everyday, so I will conclude my post here. There is no stone-written rule that can help us define the right course for mistakes. Following thoughts can help us take a better course of action:-

  • Take a course of action aiming at a result. (For repeated mistakes by a team member: When you know you can’t fire that person define your course of action accordingly. When you know that anyway you will be needing a new person then define your course of action accordingly.)
  • There will be bad apples everywhere but don’t leave your ethics/character for them.
  • Tolerate mistakes but never tolerate bad attitude. Bad attitude is like a rotten root, you can’t expect a fruitful tree out of a rotten root.
  • Communicate as often and as quick. 90% mistakes happens due to communication gaps, so communicate to transfer knowledge, to transfer vision.
  • If a person is committed and is with the same vision then he/she can be molded rightly.

Good night, I still some have 7 posts under draft so keep watching.

2 Replies to “Mistakes are often mistaken”

  1. I really liked the section on “Guide for Mentors/Project Managers /Leaders /Management/..”.It is empowering if taken in the true spirit. I would like to add something to what you have already written. It makes an interesting read.

    Mistakes are the wrong takes that one takes in life. Mistakes are small, mistakes are big. Can small mistakes be forgiven? It really depends on your perception. What influences perception?

    1. Your internal frame of reference (Different interpretations of the same set of actions)
    2. Your past experiences
    3. Expectations from others
    4. Your own conduct
    5. Historical and Cultural Influences
    6. Impact or the perceived impact(very cyclical)

    What defines mistake? What defines small? I am still wondering about it. All parties in any relationship can define the parameters of mistake both acceptable and unacceptable. What constitutes a mistake, the repercussions of a mistake, etc.

    • Repeating the action even after recognizing it as a wrong action:- Both, what is to be avoided needs and what needs to be done should be told clearly. A norm for functioning needs to be laid down and followed. Norms should be logical and at least somewhat permanent.
    • Wrong action committed with self permission for self gain. (All shortcuts to fame and name can come under it):- I still don’t understand how one’s conscience allows one to commit such errors. I think that they are the gravest blunders one can commit.
    • Being ignorant or inattentive with self permission resulting in a wrong action:- It is alright to say so when you are interpreting law, but organization norms are different. Not everyone can know the unwritten norms. During induction you come to know about the written norms alone. Unwritten norms exist whether u believe it or not.
    • Not accepting/not recognizing the right cause of wrong action:- Its is a fatal mistake in my eyes. You cannot resolve the real problem if you keep addressing the symptoms and not the disease itself. Identifying the real problems and separating the cause from the effect is also a problem. Some times it gets to become like a chicken egg situation. You may need to start somewhere. But addressing the root will help in the long run.
    • Unwillingness to learn the bigger lesson taught by previous similar actions resulting in another related wrong action:- Lessons need to be taught in terms of what to do and why to do. Sometimes explaining why to do may take much longer. However it is recommended that over time such logic may be shared with the errant. This will not only help him/her understand the current situation but also empower him/her to take other decisions as well. Taking irrational decisions without supplying the adequate logic will not help the erring individual realize his/her mistake. Changing stances, with change in circumstances is understood. So, the changes circumstances need to be explained.

    On a lighter note I would like to share this with you as well. 🙂 (Don’t take it otherwise.:))I have not come across mistakes in your previous posts, however this one was different. It has a few errors and quite coincidently you were writing on mistakes. I don’t know if it compounds your mistake.
    “No Sincere person (who is committed for work and aims at the same mission if not vision) like to commit mistakes but mistakes are inevitable for independent people.”
    Should be written like
    a)

    “No Sincere person (who is committed for work and aims at the same mission if not vision) will like to commit mistakes but mistakes are inevitable for independent people.”
    b) or
    “No Sincere person (who is committed for work and aims at the same mission if not vision) likes to commit mistakes but mistakes are inevitable for independent people.”

    “Good night, I still some 7 posts under draft so keep watching.”
    Should be written as
    “Good night, I still have some 7 posts under draft so keep watching.”

  2. Thanks for such a long and valuable comment. And I have corrected my mistakes.

    >> I have not come across mistakes in your previous posts
    Thats an indication that you have not gone through my other posts :), I don’t recheck the posts and all my posts contains major grammatical mistakes. May be some day I will go through each and every post.

    >> Mistakes are small, mistakes are big. Can small mistakes be forgiven? It really depends on your perception. What influences perception?
    Good mentors/managers/leaders spend a lot of time in understanding the situation and avoiding the territories of perception, still it can play some role in the decision.

    >> What defines mistake? What defines small? I am still wondering about it.
    That can be another post :). Mistakes are generally perceptions, some socially accepted perceptions and some legally accepted perceptions. Consuming drug is a mistake but drinking coffee is not and thats based on social perception which is very well accepted and used for defining mistakes. While dealing with people we need to help others understand our move/action. Communication equals the equations, the more you communicate, the more common will be your perception with the other parties involved. With common perceptions mistakes can be better addressed.

    Calling it a day, thanks again for the comment.

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