What is the biggest mistake that you ever made as a boss? That was the tantalizing question posed in a survey conducted by Accountemps, the specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance, and bookkeeping professionals.

Are you ready to answer that question? Mine comes right to mind. I failed to properly estimate the manpower and time that it would take to incorporate major tax legislation, "The Tax Reform Act of 1986," into the annual revision of the Prentice Hall federal tax 13 volume looseleaf service. A very costly mistake!

Here are some answers given by survey respondents. I picked them because I closely identify with them, or in another words, they remind me of other mistakes that I made over the years.

  • "I didn't give recognition to someone who turned out to be one of my best employees and soon lost her."
  • "Keeping a person in a position where he failed."
  • "Hiring people who are too similar."
  • "I assumed I knew what my employees' problems were instead of talking to them.  Now I talk to my employees instead of assuming that I know what's going on."
  • "I wish I had provided more opportunities for subordinates to engage in projects they enjoyed."

If you still haven't come up with your biggest mistake, let me try asking it in a different way. What do you already do well and what can you do even better?I have learned a very valuable lesson from all my mistakes. Using your brain, professional judgment, and not letting emotion or your position be the controlling factor are important, but the key is going with your gut. Don't be too busy to listen to it!

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