A clever man learns from his own mistakes, but a wise man learns from others’ mistakes. That’s what they say, and any Rules Player with sense follows this principle. We all make some mistakes, but the fewer you make the better. It sounds good, doesn’t it? However, you can’t just have the odd catchy quote up your sleeve. You have to really do this stuff. That means that every time someone near you messes up, you need to know all about it.
.You’ll have to do your detective work, subtly mind you. No one wants to be cross-examined by a colleague about where they went wrong, and there’s a danger of coming across as smug and self-satisfied and nosy and condescending because it wasn’t you who made the mistake, and that is definitely non-Rules behavior.
So when a colleague gets himself in hot water, find out what went wrong without getting spotted. One of the best ways to do this is to offer to help him put things right. After all, this isn’t a competition, and we don’t actually want our teammates to mess up. It’s just that if they do it anyway, we might as well get some benefit from it. Helping them remedy things can be a great way of finding out exactly what happened.
Once you’ve found out just what went wrong, work out how and why it happened. Then be brutally honest with yourself about whether you could have made the same mistake. Have you ever been in a hurry and failed to double-check the paperwork? Or forgotten to check your voice mail at the end of the day? Or negotiated on the basis of figures you took as right but could actually have been inaccurate?