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These Things Happen?

I was recently on a hiking trip led by three guides. One of our hikes started with a relatively steep downhill littered with loose pebbles. One of the members of a group slid on the pebbles and fell. Unfortunately, he landed on a piece of metal embedded in the ground and ended up breaking five ribs and puncturing his lung. The guides responded quickly and rushed him to the hospital where recovered relatively quickly. 

As you can imagine, the fall was the group's topic of conversation for a number of days. While discussing it with one of the guides, he allowed the fall was unfortunate, but these things happen. 

As a leader, I was a bit chagrined by the response. I realize that leaders cannot predict all possible pitfalls inherent in a project. However, we ought to respond after a negative event to ensure that the organization has learned from it and initiate steps to mitigate the risks. 

In this case, the organization could regroom the trail or they could start the hike somewhere else. They could position experienced hikers along the path to help slipping hikers and they definitely need to remove the protruding metal piece. This was not a “these things happen” situation; it was a “we have learned and will do better” situation. 

As a leader, we should encourage folks to draw our attention to areas that have not gone according to plan. We should use that knowledge to improve and make the same mistake less likely to happen. Mistakes are learning opportunities, not a time to shrug our shoulders. 


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