The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you bounce back after making a major mistake?” is written by Eric Breon, founder and CEO of Vacasa.
As the founder and CEO of a fast-growing vacation rental company, I’ve made plenty of mistakes—and that’s a good thing. I strongly believe that you can’t innovate and disrupt without making missteps, though it’s not always easy to take that long view when the damage is fresh.
If you react positively and productively when things don’t go as planned, you’ll be able to turn things around. Here’s my advice on how to do so:
Take responsibility for your mistake and do everything you can to rectify it. Be direct: “I was wrong about XYZ. Here’s what I’ve learned and what I’m doing to fix things and keep it from happening again.” Don’t be tempted to shirk responsibility; your colleagues will respect you more if you own your mistake.
One of the benefits of a mistake—even if it doesn’t feel like a benefit—is that it gives you a chance to press pause and reevaluate. In our case, if we miss a cleaning for one of our rentals, we take that as an opportunity to reevaluate our app-powered housekeeping system and make swift improvements.
Learn your lesson
Once you understand what went wrong, ask yourself how to prevent your mistakes from happening again—or at least make them less likely. Put processes in place that will help you avoid making the same error in the future, whether that’s creating a recurring calendar event so that a deadline doesn’t sneak up on you or checking in with your direct reports at regular intervals to ensure employee targets are being evaluated.
Making mistakes is a natural side effect of growth, but it’s important to ensure that your mistakes teach you something and ultimately lead to meaningful change. In our early days, Vacasa hired competent, motivated people and assumed they would grow into their roles. We skipped in-depth training, confident that our talented recruits would figure things out on the fly. Sometimes we were rewarded for our optimism, but other times we ended up with team members who were unable to execute effectively on our business needs.
Now we better understand what core competencies we’re looking for, and have robust training programs in place to help our staff succeed. Hiring good people and turning them loose was an acceptable strategy early on, but this approach doesn’t scale effectively. Since we’ve grown so rapidly, we’ve learned to invest more in training programs that allow our employees to deliver the specialized services our customers expect.
Having been in business for more than seven years, suggestions are often raised that closely resemble ideas that we’ve tried and have failed in the past. Remembering what we’ve done well and not so well keeps us from having to reinvent the wheel every few years.
TripAdvisor founder Steve Kaufer taught me that “speed wins,” a concept that my team and I take to heart. You have to take some risks to move quickly and build a winning business, and sometimes you’ll make mistakes. Many of our business expansions over the years have been complicated and time-consuming. Yet we know that dwelling too much on those difficult experiences wouldn’t do any good. We haven’t allowed setbacks to hamper our rapid growth; rather, we’ve learned from them and continued to move forward.
If you allow your mistakes to bog you down, you’ll restrict your ability to continue experimenting with new solutions. As Thomas Edison once declared, “I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work.” This outlook is essential to any company—or individual—dedicated to bouncing back after a mistake.