Share Your Mistakes

Kelly Bennett —  October 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

oopsOur natural impulse when we make an error is to hide or minimize it. This is understandable, especially in a professional setting. But what if we openly shared our errors, flubs, and gaffs just as readily as we do our successes? What does that do for us as managers?

For one, it humanizes us. You don’t have to cry or mope about making a mistake, but you can show that it’s not how you would have liked things to have gone. Show your coworkers that you’re committed to avoiding and fixing your mistakes.

Another reason to share your missteps is so that others can learn. I have sent department or even staff wide emails that started with “So, here’s something that I messed up on…” plenty of times. I follow up a description of the error with how I solved or plan to solve the problem. It alerts my coworkers that this is an error *anyone* could make and that someone did! I think these stories are more productive than second hand ones or just simply sending out a reminder of a policy or procedure. Plus, doesn’t everyone love hearing about their boss screwing up occasionally?

Sharing mistakes can also prompt others to do the same. Maybe someone you supervise has been too embarrassed to admit that they think they’ve been giving library cards out to patrons that shouldn’t have them. This is a problem you’d like to hear about. If you share a flub in a way that admits fault, suggests a solution and keeps it as light as the situation allows, he/she may follow suit. You can take big strides toward creating an atmosphere of trust, honesty and problem-solving. The best thing about creating this kind of atmosphere is that you’ll work together to not only correct your mistakes, but put fail-safes and procedures to keep those mistakes from happening again.

Kelly Bennett


Kelly Bennett has worked in libraries for nearly half of her life. She is the Head of Circulation at Ferndale Public Library, where she also purchases music, curates a local music collection and runs a monthly rock concert series, First Stop Friday. She has presented on her music programming at the Michigan Library Association annual conference and at Public Library Association's national conference. Follow her @stomper4x4 and check out her blog for more information about her concert series and music collection.

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