In a recent cultural assessment that we conducted, we analysed the treatment of mistakes within the corporation. This is a great diagnostic tool that tells you a lot about the DNA of the organization. It’s one of the 12 diagnostic pieces we use in our Reboot! programme and Accelerator.
One typical answer, paraphrased millions of times, is : ‘Mistakes are OK as long as they stay within the team’. The problem with many mistakes in the organization is that they are often too secret. Kept behind closed doors for fear that they could backfire on us. We have to be sympathetic to this approach since too many people have been penalised for their mistakes.
The nastiest cases are the ones where leaders have said that mistakes were OK when obviously they were not, and people are blamed and punished. Even worse, is the realization that people at the top of your organization have never made a mistake. Because they have never taken a serious risk
If you are really serious about learning from mistakes, you, as leader, need to do two things: One, make them public. Two: make yours public. In reverse other.
‘The Hall of Fame of Mistakes’ is incredibly cathartic. Publicise: ‘My Screw-ups of the month are…’ and you will de facto declare that it’s OK to make mistakes, and draw as many learnings as you can from them.
If you are a CEO, senior leader, top management, do this and invite others to do the same. You wont believe the amount of fresh air that will come through those windows that you have just opened.
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