ON MAKING MISTAKES
How comfortable are you making mistakes in front of your team?
As leaders, we often think that because we’ve been placed in a position of responsibility for a group, outcome or process, we must show up “practically perfect in every way.” This Mary Poppins brand of leadership though…is it authentic? Is it real? Is it serving your organization in any way? (Doubt it!)
Perfectionism is a tricky beast. At its core, we think it adds credibility to our work. “Look at me! I just did something perfectly.” Maybe you did. But what did it take to get there?
Perfectionist behavior generally manifests as procrastination (not starting the task until the perfect time, or until we know we’ll execute perfectly); the end is the only goal worth thinking about (which negates the journey and learning it took to get there); and the task is never really complete because it’s not perfect yet. Hate to tell you, but this energy is doing a number on your business in a bunch of different ways.
Leaders that value perfectionism are communicating a big message to their team – mistakes are not okay. This is where subtle shifts happen in the organization’s culture. People will hide their mistakes. Others will think it’s okay to nitpick and criticize a teammate’s work because ‘they’re helping them.’ Still others will demand a task is not finished until it’s ‘just right.’ These create consequences for your business that affect productivity and employee morale, making for a downright miserable place to work. “To err is human” and we err all the time. That’s how we grow as people and as leading edge organizations, too. Rather than being fearful and avoidant, what would happen to you and your company’s culture if you embraced and allowed mistakes?
The first thing you’d see evolve is authenticity. Allowing mistakes creates an environment where people show up to work more relaxed and open, because the worst thing in the world (a mistake) has been taken off the table as a ‘bad thing.’ Hell, you might even see people start to celebrate mistakes as a “we learned not to do this thing in this way…which led us to doing it in a better way…YAY!” (Hey – it worked for Thomas Edison.)
With authenticity comes a culture of speaking our truth to one another. Some call it “radical honesty/candor.” Radical anything sounds scary. “If someone is radically honest with me, they’re going to say something that might wreck me and hurt my feelings.” Could be. But, speaking our truth doesn’t give us permission to be an a**hole to one another. It permissions us to be the most authentic version of ourselves – holding nothing back that may later fester into resentment – and encourages others to be authentic as well.
The only mistake an evolved organization should be concerned with is if it’s actively encouraging people to hide behind the ideals of perfectionism. Getting away from perfectionism and into authenticity starts at the top of the org chart, with leaders that openly and authentically encourage their people to come to work as they are. The best way to get there is for you to get REAL comfortable making mistakes in front of your team. If you can laugh it off and make an effort to openly process the mistake together – you win. And your company will too.
Not sure where to start in bringing authenticity to your team? We understand. That’s why we’ve developed a leadership model that brings the tough conversations to you, in an easy-to-implement method, all for the sake of evolving your workplace into the leading-edge organization you know it can be.