Most of us learn more from mistakes than successes. We talk about taking risks, but what is the average response when you fail – not good, is it? We’re not trying to fail, to make mistakes, to disappoint the boss. Does intent matter?
Sometimes. There are mistakes and then, there are, mistakes. You can’t have a culture (and this is all about culture) that tolerates and even encourages risk taking if you aren’t prepared to deal with the failures that will result. Human nature kicks in. You said it was ok to take a risk, I did, it didn’t work, and now you’re yelling at me (or telling me the 7 things I could have done to make it succeed). Why should I take another risk? What will it be like to fail a second time?
This really goes the heart of any culture – living your values. It’s good to have values, good to define a culture that is steady or energetic or nerdy or risk taking or …..whatever. The hard part is that if you do one thing that deviates from it, the employees see it as you voiding the contract. From that point on things like “win-win” (a popular culture-ism) become fodder for sarcasm and not a true goal.
Back to mistakes. We’re quick to forgive our own,are we as good about mistakes others make? How do we draw the big wide gray line that says some mistakes and failures are ok,but others are not, and how do we deliver the message when the mistake happens so that we don’t invalidate the very goal we sought to achieve?