Lucky is the Project Manager who never makes any mistakes, luckier still is the Project Manager whose team or workers never make any mistakes. However, there is absolutely no luck involved in learning from mistakes as and when they occur – which, regardless of how diligent you are, they will. Having accepted that mistakes will occur is, actually, the first step in learning from them. Of course you shouldn’t just think in terms of learning from mistakes that have occurred in projects you’ve worked on – but also take the time to research and learn from other Project Managers mistakes.
What not to do with mistakes.
The one vital thing not to do with mistakes is to avoid confronting them. That’s not “confront the person(s) responsible for the mistake” but address the issues that caused the mistake to occur. Many Project Managers make the fatal error of not addressing mistakes until its time to conduct performance reviews. Performance reviews should not be used to harangue staff over what might have gone wrong – but to make sure that the individuals concerned are supported in developing their abilities. So, mistakes need attending to as and when they occur – but, if you truly want a creative working environment, then don’t be too keen to blame someone else if mistakes occur. Instead use the mistake as a learning opportunity for all, so as to ensure it never gets repeated.
Being constructive with mistakes.
As hinted at above, it can be all too easy, when discussing mistakes with colleagues, to be critical and negative about the person or persons responsible for the mistake. As the Project Manager you need to show strong leadership here to make sure that whoever you are addressing about the mistake(s) does not take it as a personal attack. Although it might go against the grain, you need to be as constructive about any mistakes as possible to, instead, turning them into that learning opportunity. Also, don’t ‘lecture’ staff who were not involved in the mistake(s). Announcing what went wrong with a mistake to all and sundry will not help you to build team spirit or confidence – as they’ll all end up thinking it was their fault in the first place.