Ideas: Share and Learn from “Mis-Takes”

This idea is excerpted from Barbara’s book CARE Packages for the Workplace–Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work (McGraw-Hill, 1996) 

The Idea:

Most of us think of a “mistake” as “bad” or a “failure.” However, because we are all human beings, there WILL be mistakes in our organizations. The question becomes not, “Will there be any mistakes?” but rather,”When we make a mistake, how will we handle it?” I ask people in my training sessions to hyphenate the word “mistake” and to think of it as a “MIS-TAKE.” Doesn’t that have a different feeling? I think of the movies where it may take hundreds of “takes” to get a final print. Therefore, a “MIS-TAKE” is not bad or a failure but rather just one thing that didn’t work.

Most of us want to hide our mistakes; however, if you view them as ‘MIS-TAKES,” then everyone can be comfortable to share theirs and all can learn from them.

The Idea In Action:

An employee tells about how they handle “MIS-TAKES” in their office. The person who accumulates the most “voids” on a particular day gets a crown and the title of “Void King or Queen for the Day.” They have chosen to have fun with what naturally will happen in their very stressful jobs.

One of the principals in an organization devoted to bringing more fun to the workplace shared in a conference presentation two “awards” given internally in organizations for goofs. A government organization gives a “Brass Helmet” award when an employee makes a mis-take. This adds a spirit of fun and provides a way to talk about a difficult situation. He also mentioned a hospital which gives its employees who goof a “Golden Foley” award, amply filled with apple juice!

I even suggest to organizations that they have a “MIS-TAKE” of the week and have fun with whoever has made the biggest one. Not only does this create a wonderful sharing and learning atmosphere, but it also gives employees permission to admit their mis-takes and to fix them rather then pretending they didn’t happen until an angry customer lets someone know. In fact, a “Mis-take,” if fixed quickly and in a creative way, can become a wonderful opportunity to create a delighted customer and a more valuable employee!


It may be difficult for some managers to lighten up enough to reframe a negative into a positive in this way; however, I have found that in organizations where employees are allowed to make mis-takes and are encouraged to share them, ultimately the number of mis-takes decreases because they are functioning in an atmosphere of support rather than fear. We live in the “Age of Empowerment,” and while many informed managers are giving their employees permission to be empowered, many of them are not giving them protection when they make a Mis-take. If you give your employees both permission and protection, you will have employees who feel respected and valued, and that will translate to your bottom line.

Barbara Glanz Biography

A member of the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame and one of fewer than 700 Certified Speaking Professionals worldwide, Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE, works with organizations to improve morale, retention and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the first speaker on record to have spoken on all 7 continents and in all 50 states. Known as "the business speaker who speaks to your heart as well as to your head," Barbara is the author of twelve books including The Simple Truths of Service Inspired by Johnny the Bagger®, CARE Packages for the Workplace, and 180 Ways to Spread Contagious Enthusiasm™. Voted "best keynote presenter you have heard or used" by Meetings & Conventions Magazine, Barbara uses her Master’s degree in Adult Learning to design programs that cause behavior change. She lives and breathes her personal motto: “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™” and can be reached at and

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