Happy Mondays Series #5 – Celebrate a Mistake

Scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed on a Monday morning and you’re likely to see plenty of updates about how much people are not looking forward to the start of a new week: happiness and Mondays just don’t go together for most people.

However, we can fight the idea that Mondays have to be something to dread. Every Monday for the past five weeks we have been sharing some of Alexander Kjerulf’s tips from his book 52 Happy Mondays that are meant inspire you to make your Monday happier as well. This week, we will be sharing tips from weeks 39 regarding the importance of being able to be open and honest about mistakes and to celebrate them, because they teach us something new.

Alexander Kjerulf Quote

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Week 39: Celebrate a Mistake

Sometimes, things go wrong at work: people make mistakes, targets are not met, project deadlines are missed, and customers are disappointed.

So, what do we do? Many places have the same immediate reaction: if possible, sweep the entire fiasco under the carpet. There’s no need to display our mistakes and shortcomings, is there? And if we can’t hide the mistake, then we need to find the guilty party and punish them. Who made this mistake? What went wrong? What should the consequences be?

An American company experienced that their website was down for most of the day. It cost their clients a lot of frustration and it cost the company approximately $100,000.

When the mistake was corrected, the company’s director asked what had gone wrong. The IT manager explained that one of his employees, John, had set a back-up system to run at the wrong time. That was the mistake, which led to the website crashing. The director got up and said, “Okay, I would like to speak to John.”

The director and IT manager went together to the IT department and went over to John’s desk. John looked up at them nervously and everyone else in the office watched the conversation unfold. Everybody was waiting for the big reprimand and telling off.

“Are you John?” the director asked. “Yes” was the reply. “I want to thank you,” said the director, “You have uncovered a huge weakness in our IT set up. Thanks for that!” He then turned and left the office.

We need to celebrate our fiascos and use them constructively, just like we celebrate our successes. The American management guru, Peter Drucker, even went as far as to say that managers should find all their employees who never make mistakes and fire them, because people who don’t make mistakes never do anything new or exciting.

However, we can learn more from our mistakes if we can talk openly and honestly about them. We won’t learn anything from the mistakes we hide from others. If you celebrate your mistakes, then you will (ironically enough) make fewer mistakes.

So, that is my challenge to you: find a mistake you have recently made at work and celebrate it together with one or more of your colleagues.


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 Translated by Synamon Mills

Alexander Kjerulf
21 Jul 2014

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