The best leaders learn from their mistakes—do you? | Dental City Blog

Let’s continue our exploration into what makes dental leaders exceptional. In previous articles we discussed finding your “why” and the importance of feedback.

Today we’re discussing—wait for it—failure.

I know, I know. You’re probably giving me a funny look right now. Or contemplating whether or not you should just turn and run now. I mean, failure isn’t exactly synonymous with failure.

Failure is a necessary element of leadership.

How someone handles their failures and mistakes directly reflects on their ability to lead others in a positive manner. Because no matter how hard a person tries, they will never be perfect. Something they do will go wrong or they’ll say the wrong thing. It happens.

An extraordinary leader chooses to learn from their mistakes and teach others what they’ve learned as well.

Take this scenario for example. A seasoned dental hygienist meets a new patient for the first time. Everything seems to go as planned. The patient leaves with a freshly-cleaned set of pearly whites. And the hygienist verbally confirms this new patient’s next appointment before rushing to meet her next patient. Unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle of the day she forgets to ever record the appointment in the office calendar. The day of the next appointment comes, the patient shows up, but he’s not on the schedule.

What now? What would an exceptional leader do?

The hygienist could hide her failure to record the appointment. Claim she never discussed it with the patient or suggest something went wrong with their electronic scheduling system. But what good would that really do? Would that hygienist be setting a good precedent for the rest of the hygienists?

Certainly not. And anyone in a dental office who believes in what they do and wants to motivate those around them would understand that.

The hygienist in that situation made a simple mistake. And upon realizing her mistake she could turn it into a somewhat positive experience by owning up to it, recognizing what lead to the mistake (not taking the few minutes to enter the appointment), and then sharing her experience with the rest of her team so that they wouldn’t make the same error.

Doing this accomplishes two things: 1) she’s showing her team that it’s okay to make and admit mistakes and 2) she’s using her error as a way to help others not repeat it.

Both actions are things any leader worth a grain of salt will be able to do when they fail.