Mistakes Are Good

“Once corrected in the right way, mistakes bring clarity of vision.”

Recently, my Partner and I discovered something unpleasant in the companies we run. Our staff decided to own a mistake instead of owning up to it. Therefore jeopardizing the life of the staff and their families. This is what happened:

One of the staff who was remitting the Companies statutory payments left us. She never got to do a proper hand over. As time passed by, things began to unravel. The person who was assigned this task discovered that there are some months that the system had not captured. But on our end, we knew that it was remitted. So they asked for receipts, and he said that he will get the receipts. He calls the predecessor and asks for the receipts in vain. The successor realises that penalties continue to accrue and decides to pay it from his salary. Unfortunately, he doesn’t say it to anyone. He owns the problem.



Six months down the line, he hasn’t managed to pay because it is not a small amount. But remember he did not say it. So he continues to struggle and we realise he is not as efficient as he used to be. So we decide to speak to him and he opens up. He tells us the entire story. We are in shock and disbelief. He says that he decided to own up the problem and pay the penalties because it sits in his docket.

We see secrecy. We are mad. Mad, not because of the problem, but because we were left in the dark in all this – there was zero communication. We are unhappy because there was no honesty and secrecy had settled in. We could not fathom that our trusted team can hide such a thing from us. My partner, who is usually this calm and quiet person, begins to speak firmly about secrecy and openness.



As my partner was speaking, one thing occurred to me: he was actually communicating and reinforcing the vision he has for the company. I shall quote him verbatim: “these two companies are my lifeline. And they are the legacy that I shall leave to my children. Do not joke with them. Never ever jeopardise their existence.”

This helped me a great deal to remember why we work so hard to grow these companies. It was a reminder to remain focused on the end game despite challenges. It was a call to keep innovating and be creative with solutions. It was a reminder to always be relevant in your line of business. It was a wake up call to focus on the legacy, to focus on what you set to achieve. It was a reminder to kill distraction and focus on the vision. It was a moment of being Re-energized. All this, due to a mistake by the Staff. I can never thank them enough for the mistake: but i dare not speak loud.

Because of this mistake, three things happened:

  1. We were able to explain the meaning of own a problem and own up to a problem. When you do something and you don’t say it nor communicate, but proceed to correct it, you have owned the problem. If you communicate and then correct, then you have owned up to the problem. Many people confuse these two words. In our case, staff owned the problem but did not own up to the problem. But they thought they were owning up.
  2. We were able to communicate the genesis of our tag lines in a better way. Our tag lines are We are Open (for company A) and Be Real (for Company B). In the two tag lines, we advocate honesty and openness. We abhor secrets. Sin thrives in secrets. Through their mistake, we were able to thoroughly replay and repeat that they need to be open and speak up when a mistake takes place: to be open all the time, rather than being secretive. Secrets are bad. They should not be afraid when a mistake happens: they need to be open.
  3. We clarified the vision that we have for the companies. We were able to tell them why we work so hard to make sure these companies grow.

It is from this, that it occurred to me that mistakes can help to clarify vision, and energise you, if you take them positively and see it as an opportunity.

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