I was recently doing a plumbing project on my house and bracing myself for something unexpected that would derail the day. You know the moment well if you do home improvement projects because it usually means a trip back to the hardware store.
The genesis for this project was because of such an experience. I was replacing a pressure switch with a friend when we accidentally broke some extremely brittle pipe. What was just a minor drip leak before turned into a waterfall.
We habitually focus on those moments and wonder what we could’ve done to avoid the disruption and pain.
Businesses do this all the time. Team leaders circle back on the mistakes to talk about what can be done in the future to avoid them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting this and focusing attention on the nuisance of something gone wrong. Perhaps we can prevent that exact mistake again or grow a better way of dealing with different errors.
But a lot went right too! We should be equally focused on what went right. When work goes our way, it is what we expected to happen, and so we don’t see it for what it is, a gift.
On the other side of every task or project that goes off without a hitch is an alternate reality where a new variable opposes every step. In the best-case scenario, we handle those variables in stride, and still, we make no significant mistakes. It is a good practice to imagine what could’ve been and be thankful for what was a big win.
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When I was plumbing the house, I could’ve had a constant string of leaks in newly connected pipes, but I didn’t. We could have broken a further upstream pipe that would’ve resulted in no house water until the project was complete, but that didn’t happen. We can foster a culture of learning from our failures and our successes.
A lot went right too, and that is worth celebrating.