We live in a time of social media filters and feeds that make “perfection” achievable with a couple of clicks. Thinking we have to be perfect, we try too hard not to make mistakes, and when we do, we try to hide them. But you’re walking into a trap.
To make mistakes is to be human. That is never going to change. In business, we strive for perfection. We build our team with good people, make fast decision, read a lot and try to measure for success.
But it’s easy to feel inadequate when others are making such a solid showing. It seems like they never make mistakes. And the ones who’ve made it to the top probably have never made a big business mistake in their lives.
Some of us react poorly to this. We try too hard not to make mistakes and miss opportunities because of it. And, instead of learning from our mistakes, we hide them.
Perfection is a Trap
The idea of perfection is a trap. Don’t fall into it. Your mistakes can be just what you need to grow as a business leader, and just what your business needs to get over that next growth hurdle. Don’t run or hide from mistakes, whether they’re yours or your team’s. Embrace them. Your team needs to feel you value them as humans; that they’re worth more than just what they are able to produce.
Kristen Hadeed, Owner of Student Maid, publicly acknowledged all of her mistakes in starting a business in her book, “Permission to Screw Up.” Not only does she readily admit her own mistakes as a leader building her business, but she acknowledges that allowing others to make mistakes is just as crucial for business success. For example, her intern was in charge of payroll and made an error that overpaid her team by $40,000. Instead of firing the intern, she empowered the intern to fix it using her own solution. Within a few days, all of the money was retrieved with no issues from the bank nor her team that was overpaid.
Giving permission to make mistakes has everything to do with company culture. Is your culture conducive to making mistakes and learning from them?
Here are some common growth shortcomings in company culture and ways to fix them.
Keeping Secrets From Your Team
Secrecy breeds uncertainty. Lack of transparency can feel much like secrecy. For example, not disclosing your 1-, 5-, or 10-year goals may seem harmless. But not sharing this with the people on the front lines of your business causes them to not be invested in the long term success of the business.
Instead, foster a transparent culture by using team chat tools like Slack or Skype, keep your team members in the loop, and share executive team meeting notes with the entire company. These are just some ways to create a culture of transparency.
Harboring Constant Stress and Anxiety
Occasional stress is normal. In fact, some people work better under stressful conditions. Constant stress leaves you and your employees feeling anxious and unable to make well-thought-out decisions. Your team will make mistakes, but won’t be empowered to admit or learn from them.
If your team is victim to constant stress, there are some ways to mitigate it. Partner with them to determine the root cause. Then brainstorm solutions to eliminate it.
Put Numbers Before People
Your employees are your business. When business numbers or goals consistently take precedence over your people, you create an unhappy company culture, rife with people who drop the ball simply because they don’t care.
We all have a “work mode.” It can be hard to readjust our focus to see what’s going on with our teams. Set regular 1:1 meetings to discuss wins, lessons learned, and blockers on projects while also connecting on a personal level. Establishing this routine checks your team’s pulse — how are they really doing?
Lack of Trust
If your employee comes to you with a question and you don’t know the answer, admit it. Invite your colleague to work with you to find a solution together. When you become vulnerable, trust is born. Admitting you don’t know everything fosters strong working relationships and a healthy environment for making mistakes that lead to growth.
Not giving feedback is a recipe for failure. It may seem easier to correct the mistake yourself and move on. It’s not. When an employee doesn’t know what they did wrong, they’ll continue making the same mistakes. Give feedback the first time they make the mistake and they can adjust for the future. Long term, this leaves you with less work and your employee feeling more empowered.
Mistakes Can Move You Forward
Despite a world that sets impossibly high standards through social media, develop the mentality and culture to embrace your mistakes. This mentality puts you in a much better position to avoid the anxiety that produces unrealistic pressure to perform beyond your ability’s and the abilities of your team.
Go ahead, make mistakes. But find ways to help them move you forward. Keep at it, and you’ll build a mature organization that can flex with whatever the economy and the competition can throw at you.
Mac6 is a co-working and co-manufacturing space in Tempe, Arizona. If you’re considering the move to a co-working space, come visit us.