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What is a mistake you made in work that turned into a learning experience ?

How do you use that learning in your life now?

This is part of our professionals series

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Subject: Career question for you

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15 answers


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Alexa’s Answer

Well, one time I broke a machine at work because I didn’t know how to set it up correctly. The doctor then pulled me aside and explained it costs thousands of dollars to fix. I felt terrible after, especially since he was so nice about it. What I learned is to slow down, and ask for help when I need it. Don’t try to make pretend you know everything.
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Wayne’s Answer

In software, mistakes are abundant. It is about iteration, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes is the job. As you maneuver through the career you will make more mistakes, more mistakes are more experience and less gotchas next time you find yourself crossing those same bridges. My advice is form a new relationship with mistakes, view them purely as learning opportunities, because treating them any other way simply holds you back, move forward always.
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Paul’s Answer

I think that I learned to rely more upon my intutition and common sense.

I had an experience once where I trusted an individual, who I really should never have trusted.

This person had the ability to talk and convince others that they were right. When in reality their background, education, experience and other behavioral elements said otherwise.

I should have listened to my common sense and intuition, which was telling me that what they were saying did not match with their past failures.

I let my emotions get the better of me. And as a result I lost a lot money and resources, which took me a long time to recover.

I had broken UCLA Coach John Wooden's rule that you should never lose control of your emotions or make decisions while under the influence of excessive emotion. Because when you do you are more likely to make a mistake in judgement or in a life decision. I never made another error like that again.
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Reid’s Answer

Hello,

When I first starting my data analyst role I presented way too much information and data that would overwhelm my audience and was not a productive use of time of the senior executives I was presenting to.

I learned to strategically think about my audience and tailoring my presentations to show data that was relevant to them. I worked with a few of them 1on1 to gain a better understanding of what was important for them to see in the presentations. I also worked with a mentor who I worked on verbal presentation skills with (speaking clearly, modifying tone, body language). I used this learning to effectively communicate with senior executives and maintain my audience’s focus and attention on the key topics of what I was presenting.
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Drew’s Answer

One time I was writing a Microsoft.JScript macro. The macros are integrated with my company's enterprise software and I was fairly new to the company. I had a task to stop Qualtiy Assurance testers from using live customer file/loans for their testing. So I hard coded:

if(user != 'QualityAssurance") {
los.ShowMessageBox("This is not a test file dummy!");
}

Now this probably looks ok, but it was the opposite of what I wanted to happen. Instead, every user, that was NOT a Quality Assurance user, got the message on EVERY live customer file. What did I learn? A lot.

Within minutes I got a call from the VP of the company... "Drew you are the funniest person, but fix it so we can go back to work.".

What I thought was a phone call to end my employment was an understanding leader and manager. So many things in that one experience helped me grow as a developer, but also as a person. As a manager now myself I am understanding of those I manage and knkow that making mistakes is well within the lines of a great [insert any title or position] and helps any and everyone grow.

"A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new" - Einstein
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Maxwell’s Answer

Ignoring the balance between a comfortable personal life and and boundaries in a work setting
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Maryam’s Answer

I think the biggest mistake I made in the past is underestimating the power of relationship building. As we start our career, we are so focused on deliverables and meeting deadlines and our focus is always to please the higher managers and all we strive for is to deliver, deliver, deliver....many years later I've learned to build, nurture and value relationships with my team, with my business partners, with external clients/vendors . I've learned so much from these relationships and they have helped me more with my career progression than any deliverable.
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Sidrah’s Answer

Taking professional courtesy as kindness.
When you are in office, everyone arpund you is a collegue or a coworker only. Once you understand this you wont look for validations and not be emotionally dependent on coworkers .
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Frances’s Answer

Dear Maryam,
One big mistake that many people make, and I have made in the past is procrastinating and not handling an issue as soon as is possible. If you notice, I said as soon as possible. Sometimes more information is required but not prioritizing and not handling an issue usually leads to other consequences both for you, others and your organization. Once I procrastinated in making a network change which led to an outage. The outage impacted both my organization and another company. I was able to engage another organization to intervene and temporarily recover the network while the work was done correctly with some quick thinking. But this impacted another group where they needed to put their work on hold to help me unnecessarily. I also had to drop everything and handle this work which impacted other projects. Now, I make it a point to begin my workday with a prioritized list of what I need to complete that day. It is important to have an idea of what your company's or work group's priorities are and how they impact others. This way you are always reaching to achieve the organization goals and delight your customers.

Frances recommends the following next steps:

Look at the mistake I've mentioned above - apply SOAR techniques below:
At what time have you been in a SITUATION when you procrastinated?
What OPPORTUNITY did you have to circumvent procrastination?
What ACTIVITY could you have done to circumvent procrastination?
What could have been the RESULT?
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Dan’s Answer

Many years ago, I accepted a position as a chef. working in the commissary of a large manufacturing plant. Going into the job, I wondered if my skills were adequate and whether or not I was taking on more responsibility than I was capable of handling. By the second day of work, I was feeling inadequate and not very confident in being able to fulfill my job responsibilities . So I decided to go and talk with my manager and tell her that I think I made a big mistake and that the job seemed way above my pay grade. She very wisely said, " I'll make a deal with you(this was a Tuesday), if you work until Friday and still feel this way, you will have my blessing to resign from your position", Just her saying that took a big weight off of my shoulders and I felt a lot better. By Friday, I was feeling like a different person, with a lot more confidence and a very positive attitude toward my work. I learned that week , never to make a hasty decision too quickly( that you may later regret) especially when your emotions are running high. I also learned the importance of being patient with oneself(especially when starting a brand new job) and trusting the judgement of others who believe in you. My manager acted very wisely and I was very thankful that I listened to her wise counsel, as the job experience turned out to be a very fulfilling and enjoyable one.
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Jimil’s Answer

I had an experience where I had a bad manager that did not understand how to utilize technology, and did not like to be asked questions. Many of my managers in high end job didn't like to be asked questions. I don't necessarily consider this my mistake, but I learned how to be a better manager by not doing the same as my peers. Given that I have over 5 years as CEO of my own company, I am already more knowledgeable than these management figures in some ways. With that being said, I also learned the successful management tactics that they did use including coordinating deliverables.
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Engel’s Answer

Great career question! I have an engineering background and by nature, I tend to gravitate towards using data and facts to support a position rather than subjective opinions. If you're like me, then you might think this data-driven approach would be logical and helpful. However, a mistake I repeatedly made early on in my career was trying to be "right" all the time as opposed to being "effective". Being right is useful in a lot of engineering applications where factors such as safety or performance are key considerations. When dealing with people or customers, my advice would be to switch off the need to be right all the time and rather focus on what it would take to be more effective when dealing with a particular situation. Instead of focusing in on being right and proving your point, focus on the desired outcome of the situation (e.g., address a customer complaint, discuss an employee related performance issue). Even though it's an oldie but goodie, I would highly recommend reading or reviewing Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", particularly "Seek first to understand, then to be understood" and also "Think Win/Win"

Engel recommends the following next steps:

Reflect on situations in the past when you might have focused more on proving you were right (and another person was wrong).
What was the outcome?
Review Stephen Covey's habits: https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/
If you weren't happy with the outcome, what could you have done differently?
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Godwin Têkovi’s Answer

Hi Miss Palo Alto! You have asked a question which to me is very important! Yes, everybody makes professional mistakes and as the saying goes, " to err is human". Nevertheless, there are some mistakes that are fatal and which may affect you for life or which will influence your profession.
In my case, as an example, it was the daily plans for my activities. When I was appointed Pedagogical Director, it was firstly, hard for me to do all my daily work and I always felt overwhelmed at the end of the day! And when it comes to the weekly minute I was always criticized by the CEO who was always demanding and not satisfied with my efforts. I then approached a colleague who advised me to plan everything I must do during the day. I can assure you that today I am able to do everything but in time. The approach is very simple though: Plan Do Act and Check! (PDCA)
Good luck, Miss Palo Alto!
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Vidya’s Answer

A few mistakes:
- Not being proactive when issues arise- not alerting the right people only puts you in harm's way.
- Not drawing boundaries between work and personal life. Ensure others respect your personal time away from work.
- Being quick to judge your colleague. Try to stay neutral about everyone for as long as you can. If you do have an opinion, keep it to yourself.
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Brandy’s Answer

A mistake that I made was what most would call "flying under the radar". Basically keeping to myself and not putting myself in a spotlight when it came to leaders. It prevented me from progressing my career sooner because although I had the skills for the job, the leadership staff didnt know who I was or how well I communicated. Generally, I am an introvert by nature but at work I have had to learn to put myself in the spotlight which can be uncomfortable but, it allowed me to progress the way I had hoped. Dont be afraid to fail and dont be afraid to publicly own your errors and successes.
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