As I near the end of the first year in my new role as Director of E-commerce, I’ve been contemplating some of the mistakes I’ve made. In order to grow and improve I think you have to both take an honest look at yourself and also be open to criticism from others. Pride makes this sort of thing painful to do, but whenever you feel the pain you know that’s a good sign that you’re on to something. So here are my top seven (business) mistakes in the last year. I’m hoping by sharing them you might be able to learn from my mistakes and spare yourself the hassle.
- Unchecked Optimism
I regularly get myself in a bind because of my optimism. I tend to over-promise, or underestimate the timeline, even though I should know better. When I begin a project I will sell the participants on a glorious pain-free journey which of course never works out that way. Every boss I’ve had has critiqued me for this, and rightfully so. I think the solution for this is to sit down before projects and consider all that can go wrong. This is contrary to my nature so having a dedicated time for this is, as far as I can tell, my best shot at actually mixing in a dose of realism into my planning.
- Saying Yes
When you’re trying to be ambitious and show your work ethic, especially in a new job situation, it’s tempting to just try and take on any task you come across. That’s what I did to some extent in the last year. This of course backfires because it’s impossible to effectively juggle many tasks without delegation, so you end up neglecting certain things. This defeats the purpose of trying too look ambitious! Only taking on select items that I can handle effectively is something I really need to work on.
- Hiring Under Panic
This one is pretty obvious. No matter how panicked you are, you need to take a step back and make sure you are hiring the right people. The idea that throwing someone at a problem is the best way to fix it is so natural but so very wrong. Taking the time to train someone that you ultimately won’t have on your team for long is much more of a waste of time. Plus, no one deserves to be put in a job situation that they are clearly not fit for. It took someone showing up at my office days after being let go and giving me an hour long speech about what harm I’d done to him to finally get this into my thick skull. This is no joke, it’s people’s lives.
- Not Taking The Time To Get Enough Feedback Prior To Making A Change
I’ve changed a lot of things in the last year at my company, and before I did I spent 1-2 months just talking to everyone about how things worked, what was lacking, and what they thought of my suggestions. These were all very useful conversations, but I regularly came across dead ends once I began implementing new things. The clear way to correct my mistake here is to write down each change in detail prior to making it, and then having the affected people review the document and provide additional feedback.
- Not Testing Enough Prior To Launch
It’s no secret that I love developers, but I have in some cases allowed that love to become blind trust. Developers are human too and so errors are going to come up. It’s tedious to test extensively but as a project manager it’s irresponsible to assume everything will work as it should. I need to remind myself of that daily.
- Not Taking The Time To Appreciate What’s In Place Before Making Major Changes
Coming in to a new company to work on operations has tempted me to simply emulate what I’m used to and what has worked for me in the past. It’s simple to just remove something when you have no attachment to it or the context through which it was devised. Many times axing things create unforeseen issues though, so taking more time beforehand to learn the consequences of these actions would serve me well.
- Taking The Naysayers Personally
Anyone who says “It’s just business, nothing personal” is not someone I’d like to do business with. Does “business” imply that morality or ethical behavior should not stand in the way of profits? We don’t all need to hug and be friends, but to suggest “business” means you can get away with being an asshole or manipulative is absurd to me. With that being said, I tend to get personally offended by the people that are negative and don’t think we can pull off our goals. This isn’t something just from the last year but throughout my career. It’s of course prudent to bring up concerns, but to constantly be negative and complaining is not constructive. What is also not constructive though, is to feel anger or offense towards those that do this. Taking offense over these things is such a time and energy waster and it’s best to just move and brush it off. It’s also super important to not allow emotion to cloud a valid message that these people may be trying to get to you. I tell myself that these people always help me vet my plans, but sometimes I don’t have a thick enough skin to not take is personally.
So there you have it, 7 things for me to improve upon in the next year. Hopefully something here may be of use to you. Care to join in on the public self-criticism? Add the mistakes you’re working to correct in the comments!