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Why You Should Embrace Mistakes

For those of you who know me or have read my blogs, you know that I am an improv actor and comedian. I have been studying, performing, and teaching improv for over 20 years, and I believe without a doubt that improv will make you better at whatever it is you do.

Several improv concepts are woven into the Butler Street programs that touch on active listening, collaboration, and thinking on your feet. However, there is one crucial improv element that could use a little more attention: the idea that we must embrace mistakes.

Improv actors are inherently good at this because we see mistakes as opportunities, not setbacks.

Let me give you an example of this. Let’s say an improv actor steps out on stage and delivers the following line of dialog.

“Hey, don’t be such a goose cannon.”

Now, the actor probably meant to say, “Hey, don’t be such a LOOSE cannon.” But instead, out came the words "goose cannon."

In this instance, most people would gloss over that flub and continue as if the person had said loose cannon. NOT improvisers! See, an improviser would jump all over that mistake and build on the wording of goose cannon. Let's see how this might play out if we embraced that mistake.

  • ACTOR ONE: “Hey, don’t be such a goose cannon.”

  • ACTOR TWO: “Well, how do you expect to storm the castle and win this battle if we can’t shoot geese into the enemy’s ranks?”

  • ACTOR THREE: “Yeah, Trent! Everyone knows that an aggressive goose is one of the most terrifying things on the face of the planet. The Goose Cannon is our best shot at victory.”

Improv actors often refer to mistakes as “gifts” because they are often unexpected moments that make things more interesting and memorable.

In the improv world, we are taught very early that we must embrace the choices our scene partners make, even if that choice is a mistake. We see the opportunity in errors and understand that they can bring a lot of value to our scenes.

Unfortunately, in the business world, mistakes can be seen as a sign of weakness or a negative, but a lot of good can come when we allow ourselves to make mistakes.

So, why do we fear making mistakes in the business world? The answer, we fear vulnerability.

Vulnerability inhibits our ability to take chances and make choices. If we fear the repercussions of being wrong, it can sometimes feel safer to simply do nothing. What does that accomplish? Well…nothing.

I often see this fear of vulnerability in our role practice (aka role play) sessions. Whenever I ask our training participants to role-practice overcoming objections with a partner, I immediately observe people rolling their eyes or expressing looks of disgust. They are afraid. They are afraid of making mistakes or simply not knowing what to say.

Don't be!!

It's called Role Practice, NOT Role Perfect, and we work hard to reverse these feelings during our training sessions.

If everyone were perfect, we wouldn't need training. We would all be top producers and exceed our quotas every quarter. But we are not perfect, and it is those moments in which we do not know what to say or when we make mistakes that we learn.

And that is the crucial component to successfully embracing mistakes. Learn from them! But to learn from our mistakes and grow, we have to know that it is ok to make mistakes.

Leaders must encourage their teams to take chances and make bold choices. They must be willing to explore the mistakes made and provide guidance on how to achieve greater success based on what was learned.

Team members must have each other’s backs. On improv stages worldwide, right before the actors take the stage, everyone goes around and states, “I got your back," while patting each other on the back. It is a reminder that regardless of what happens, we are in this together and will support one another. Trust is the foundation of every great team, and to be vulnerable, there must be trust.

So go out there, be vulnerable, make mistakes and embrace them. Great things tend to follow! Need guidance in effectively coaching to improvement, workshops, or training programs? Contact us, we help companies and their people grow!


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