Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates—those at the highest echelons of business success have always preached an interesting gospel about mistakes. Bill Gates, for instance, said “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Thomas Edison famously mused: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
If you are running a law firm–or really any business–you are going to make mistakes. That is the ticket you pay to ride the entrepreneurial journey. This fact forces you to reflect on two questions:
- What mindset should you use to approach these mistakes?
- How can you extract good lessons from mistakes? How do you make them, as Bill Gates suggested, a great source of learning?
The mindset piece is easy in theory but quite challenging in practice.
Let’s say something terrible just happened in your firm:
- An associate quit weeks before you have to file a major motion on a complicated matter;
- Your intern just accused your hiring manager of sexual harassment;
- Your web design company (whom you paid over $10,000) delivered a design that looks something you could have bought on Square Space for less than 1/10th the price.
The first step is to avoid a purely reactive response. The bad news will trigger emotions and thoughts beyond your conscious control. Your job is to avoid suppressing these emotions and thoughts. Instead, strive to be conscious of them. Pause when they hit you.
Again, this is easier said than done!
Since you know that mistakes have occurred (and will occur), work to get better at the “mindful reaction” response. Whenever you make a mistake—or when the firm makes a mistake—track your responses.
- Do you fly off the handle, emotionally?
- Do you make impulsive decisions?
- Do you freeze and refuse to make decisions?
We all have useful and pathological ways responding to crises. Discover yours. The knowledge will be profoundly powerful.
In the next piece, we’ll talk about techniques you can use to extract useful lessons from terrible things that happen to your firm. The point being—you want to react to those terrible things, such that they:
- Get fixed as quickly as possible, against other resource constraints;
- Never surface again, going forward.
Rather than wrestle with these complicated challenges on your own, reach out to our team. We’ve helped hundreds of attorneys like you deal with their demons constructively. Please call or email for help.