Learning and adapting

Learning from my own mistakes

I had to email someone today to say I couldn’t do something I had previously said I would do. I hate doing this as I value competency and trustworthiness in myself.

As I sent the email I thought about how it was that I had gotten to this position and what I could learn from this situation.  I was in this position because I had failed to observe one of my own basic rules of time management – always check the surrounding weeks; it’s not just about a free spot in a diary. I was also in this position because I am having to learn new work habits and patterns because I can no long rely on a partner at home to cover my absence now as I learn to be a single parent.  I am at a stage in life when I need to be even more careful about what I say yes and no to. I need to adhere to my own rules more carefully. I need to learn new work patterns and habits. I have learnt all this from a mistake.

Ronald Heifetz, the pioneer of adaptive leadership teaches leadership by creating environments and classrooms where learners learn from their own practice. To learn in this way requires us to be willing to examine our own practice so that we reflect on what we did, why we did it and what might happen next in order to learn from our own practice. If it is our own practice and life experience that is the greatest source of learning then within that one of the great sources of learning for a leader is their mistakes if we are willing to learn from them, not in a spirit of woe is me for failing but in a spirit of learning and growing. Leadership can be taught by Sharon Daloz Park is an excellent book on how Heifetz teaches adaptive leadership and has been a rich source for me in learning how to learn from experience.

When seeking to learning from experience I think it is important to be able to describe experience. I have also found the following questions helpful in describing an incident so that I can reflect on practice:

What happened?

Why did it happen?

What was my role?

What do I think will happen next?

Learning to reflect on practice in order to grow and develop in ministry is also a key component of peer learning groups which I am looking to make a key way ministers undertake continuing education.

I have realised again in a small way the value of learning from mistakes. Hopefully I won’t make this mistake again, hopefully I caught it early enough that it won’t be too inconvenient for the other party and hopefully I’ll be less inclined to make this mistake again.

How do you seek to learn from practice?

How do approach mistakes so that they can be learning experiences?

What practices do you have to make the most of learning from mistakes?

By Sharon Hollis

Continuing Education Co-ordinator