Celebrating Mistakes

Celebrating Mistakes – Are You Creating Robots or Valuable Assets?

I could easily mention Ken Maxwell, Anthony Robbins, Tom Peters and a host of other influential people who inspire us through their presentations about how to unleash the creativity of people. It is a significant topic that deserves attention.

Peter Drucker was one of the most profound management gurus of our time. In the Harvard Business Schools article, Peter Drucker on Making Decisions, he addressed how to create quality practices by improving employee involvement and understanding. He said, “Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions or that only senior executives’ decisions matter. This is a dangerous mistake.”

Every athlete goes through a learning process. They make a mistake after mistake after mistake until they get it right. The coach works on their strengths and the weaknesses to refine the process of learning and then applies it to practical application. Matching the walk with the talk is essential. They learn to celebrate the mistakes because they know their one step closer to perfection. 

Every executive goes through the same experience. The difference is that an executive can’t keep making the same mistakes over and over. They learn from their mistakes, or they won’t be the executive for long. It is not common for a business executive to celebrate mistakes.

The goal is always to make more right decisions than wrong. If you can do that, you’re headed in the right direction.

Employees make mistakes every day in every business. How the leaders respond to them is a key to increasing organizational effectiveness and unleashing the power of creativity with your team. You can turn a robot into a valuable asset.

Decision Making & Learning From Mistakes

It is painful to hear about a mistake that happened in your company a week ago that could have been prevented. It’s even more challenging to have the same mistake made week after week. This can drive an executive to the brink!

Typically, the leader starts to resolve the issues with the “who did what” line of questions. The employees all know ahead of time how the leader will respond to their answers. You see they learn very quickly the realities of what happens when mistakes are made in the business.

During the hiring process, new employees are provided with an explanation of the company culture. They are told about the wonderful work environment and how open the culture is. After a few weeks, the new employee notices a difference between what they were told and the realities of the workplace. Other employees teach the new hire what’s really happening. You see, they are in the economic trap and need the job, so they learn quickly to follow suit with other employees. 

Examples of Employee Psychology

If the management style of the organization is “command and control” or one with micromanagement, more often than not, employees learn that mistakes cause the leader to lash out at people. They don’t want to stick their neck out or take a risk to make a decision for fear of reprisal or embarrassment.

They talk over lunch about what they heard or witnessed. The rumor mill circulates what happened, and more often than not, stories are embellished. Many learn to keep secrets or at least to not share specific concerns because there is a low level of trust in the organization.

When an employee gives two weeks notice, they know from how others were treated that you usually are let go within a day. So it’s best to keep your real-life and career plans to yourself.

Unleashing Creativity to Maximize an Asset

Imagine that you call a meeting with your entire team. You ask them to bring the biggest mistake they’ve made all week and share it with the team. You and the team then vote on who made the biggest mistake. The person making the biggest mistake wins $100.00 plus a dinner for two at the favorite local restaurant.

What do you think? Am I crazy?

 You might say I am a bit crazy but seriously, think about it? Your team is making mistakes, and if these are “hidden” in the culture of day-to-day operations, the entire company suffers. Customers suffer, profits suffer and expenses go sky high.

If the team becomes comfortable sharing mistakes, you can learn not repeat them. The team begins to take risks in making a decision vs. waiting on someone else to tell them what to do. Many times, teams have better solutions than management. It’s all about what’s good for the customer and what’s good for the company more than what’s right for just one manager.

Ok, many reading this are thinking, who is this guy? He’s crazy! Listen to the rest of the story and then let’s see what you think.

Developing individuals and groups of people so they can perform at a high level takes a concerted effort. It takes hiring the right people along with establishing a set of policies and procedures that guide the team to the necessary business outcomes. The larger your company becomes, there will be more policies and procedures needed to guide the behaviors of your people to accomplish the goals and objectives.  Are you with me so far?

If the leader’s brain damages an employee, then it is less likely the employee will learn to “think” vs. being on remote control. The “command and control” style of management is less effective now than any other time in our history.

Robots generally do repeatable tasks over and over. They don’t think they just do the job that’s been assigned. With the machine learning they do learn and begin to apply human traits of reasoning, but they are still a far cry for human beings.

Every business needs employees making decisions. Make no mistake about it, they are every day, but the quality of their judgments makes or breaks a company. Unleashing the talent of people really isn’t that hard. It is an easy thing to say or even write about, but in reality, it’s tougher because you’re dealing with personalities and paradigms. Some of these perceptions come from the strangest places!

Employees are often running on remote control. They’ve learned that if they take a risk and it doesn’t pan out the then wrath of the leader or manager is soon to be upon them. By unleashing them you create a group of champions with the focus to achieve the goals of the company vs. protecting their turf or not caring what happens as long as they get their paycheck.

Your Employees are Your Best Asset

Depending on your size of company and management style, maybe just one of these ideas provides a nugget of information! Learning to release the talents and energy of your best asset so they can make better decisions is the easiest and fastest way to grow a company.

8 Tips & Strategies to Celebrate Mistakes
  1. As a leadership team, decide that you are going to foster open communications in the business. When mistakes are made, you will address these problem areas with the intent to listen first, then speak. Listen first to understand what happened, what did they think when it happened and what do they think can be done next time it happens. I addressed this strategy in my article called “Answer Man to the Rescue!” Asking these questions flushes out the real issues and provides a pathway for the leader to coach the behaviors. This creates what is called teachable or coachable moments.
  2. Anyone on the leadership team that manages other people who has a short fuse or can’t control their anger when things go wrong needs separate coaching to address this performance attitude. Decide as a team that treating employees in this manner isn’t acceptable anymore, and then take action to prevent it.
  3. When mistakes are made, celebrate the person or team, who brings these to the table. This could be as simple as a sincere thank you or as elaborate as a dinner for two. This starts a chain reaction of communications in the business. Leadership teams can’t fake this sincerity. Remember, it is what you do that speaks so loud I can’t hear what you are saying.
  4. During a team meeting, ask what the biggest mistake was made all week. Depending on the culture and management style in the organization, start by explaining that we all make mistakes every day. Instead of these mistakes being hidden we want to use them as a learning exercise. By sharing mistakes in a team environment, everyone can all learn across the whole company.
  5. If your culture is stagnating or in the early stages of growth, the leader may need to start with their own mistake of the week. Be honest. Usually, employees already know the mistakes being made but are reluctant to speak out because that type of feedback is frowned upon. When the leader speaks first it sets a precedent of real honesty.
  6. When an employee shares a mistake that is bad, don’t laugh or make derogatory comments. Don’t let others do this either. You’re trying to capture the spirit that mistakes are learning lessons and coachable moments. Even if the employee made a bigger mistake then they are admitting to the goal of the first few meetings are to get the group to start opening up.
  7. Each team has someone who is outspoken. That does not mean this person actually influences other team members. Many could think this person has brown on their nose or the ego is oversized. There is always a silent observer that a team listens to. Helping that person to start offering ideas will help bring others along.
  8. Measuring creates accountability, and improves implementation. Log these “mistakes,” and the corrective actions that are decided on. Use them to share with others, so they cultivate problem/solution attitudes in the whole company.

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