How Mistakes are Treated in your Organization, Will Show You How Responsible your Employees will be in Growing your Organization
When asked, the owner of a design company commented that his staff were not contributing and were afraid of speaking up and he has to do most of the talking in meetings.
When asked, he said, “I ALWAYS ask my team to speak up. I give them chances to express their thoughts and ideas. I don’t know why they keep silent.”
We interviewed his staff and asked him, what happens around here when a mistake is made…
Staff: “Oh, hmm. Off the record, when there’s a mistake, it depends on the boss’s mood. If he’s in a bad mood (and we don’t know when he is), we’ll get a real and loud scolding. Happens often.”
This is a common gap in many companies, small, medium and large. Leaders and owners think that they are encouraging employees to speak up, expresses, share ideas, etc but when employees fess up their courage to speak up and just to be met with (a) someone shutting down the idea, (b) someone losing his/her temper, that said employee would definitely clam up! Employees fear to express honestly because of the reaction of the leader when something wrong was said.
In growth, there will be unchartered territory, and if leaders come down HARD on employees for making mistakes and taking risks because they were trying their 100%, then employees will think twice stepping up if there’s no safe space to do so.
“Always respond with Thank You”. Even if you hear something that does not make sense, say thank you. Be grateful that they tried, and took the risk and tried. Then respond with a question, for them to clarify what they meant.
“Take the Position of your Employee.” It’s easy to take the perceptual position as the employee, and say things like, “I pay you a good salary, and you are from a Grade A school, and you need me to teach you how to do your job??” One thing I learned about being a good leader and coach to the team, is EMPATHY. Taking their position, and standing in their shoes. We need to see what they see, how they hear us, and perhaps we can adopt a clearer and more nurturing approach.
Remember, you were once an employee too! Or at least, there was a time when you were learning and made a boo-boo on something, and you were not reacted upon or scolded upon. For some leaders & entrepreneurs, those times were too long ago, that they remember what it’s like to make mistakes.
“Making mistakes is part of learning.” Where did you learn the most? From successes or mistakes? Mistakes are a great opportunity to teach your employees. Not a training module where they sit 8 hours learning some theory but learn some REAL life skills on how to be a better person. Now, where do you learn that? Yes, from mistakes! The problem with MISTAKES is if they are made, and there was no apparent learning, and you (as their leader & coach) did not ground the learning.
2 simple questions you can ask –
- “What did you learn in that mistake?”
- “What will you do differently when faced with the same situation?”
These 2 magic questions alone, turns you into a coach, and secondly grounds the learning and ensures that your employee verbalizes it to you. It’s not good enough you “TELL” them what they should do differently, but more IMPORTANT that they verbalize their thought process of how they will change and do things differently. That way, they take ownership of the problem.
After all, most people (including yourself), hate being TOLD what to do. Guess what, so do your employees.
Those who tell YOU, to tell them what to do… (if you have those), “Just tell me, you are the boss. You pay me, so you tell me, and I will just do as you say.” ~ if you get these, they are being sarcastic with you, if you can pick up on the tone. And if you have these said to you, these employees rather use your brain, than theirs.
So, remember, how mistakes are treated in the organization determines how people will innovate, think outside the box, be proactive, “go the extra mile”, etc. If mistakes are met with harsh reactions that instil FEAR and INSECURITY, you are actually coaching your team to fear taking risks, nor fear to explore change, which means, doing things just the same way.
It starts with You.