Managing Mistakes

It takes a lot of trust and honesty to talk about the plans that didn't work out, says entrepreneur, Chief Executive, and author Margaret Heffernan in her latest Resource Center column, "Mistakes." Behind every successful business, and every business person, lie many mistakes, she continues.

Heffernan shares a personal story of a mistake she made in her career, as well as how she recovered from it. She begins:

When asked about the meaning and impact of the French Revolution, Chairman Mao is reputed to have said, "it’s too early to tell." He might have been right but, in 1989, no one wanted to wait. Like all big anniversaries, the bicentenary generated a lot of television programs and it seemed like I was in charge of most of them.

I was a producer at the BBC, had made history films for years, and was a self-confessed French Revolution buff. No assignment could have pleased me better. A documentary series shot on location, a drama series featuring Alan Rickman and Simon Callow, a conversation with Simon Schama, even a comedy. And that was just the recorded shows. There was also to be hours of live TV covering fantastic celebrations across France. Jean-Paul Goude, Grace Jones’s collaborator, was in charge of the parade. He'd never done anything like this before. French TV was in charge of the live broadcast; they'd never done anything like it before. And, as if that weren't risk enough, I'd never done live television before.

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