It’s OK to make mistakes, or is it?

One of the more difficult issues in management is when you get confronted with mistakes made by your team members. The question is how do you react?  Do you welcome mistakes as learning opportunities or do the mistakes go in the performance appraisal file and impact on their compensation?

One of the companies I worked for wanted to continue to drive out safety accidents. The traditional approach had been to add supervision and take harsh measures against any employee with a safety violation but as that had not generated a “safety environment” a new way was tried. The employees were encouraged to report any “near misses” to the safety department and they would not be punished in any way when they would report a near miss. The stack of reports allowed management to find out what parts of the policies were unclear or did not work and change those. It made employees more safety conscious and thus the safety record improved.

My kids do not get scolded when they come home with a low grade on a test. The only requirement I have is that they need to tell me what they are going to do about it and what they will change as a result. This way we have seen them volunteer for extra hours in class, do additional tests homework, discuss issues with the teachers, ask for make up work etc. They continue to score A’s and B’s and the approach seems to work.

Now how is this in your department or company. When an employee makes a costly mistake, how do you react?

It all starts with providing clear goals and expectations. Providing enough support and coaching is another essential piece of the puzzle and providing an environment of openness such that they feel comfortable owning up to their mistakes so you all can learn from it is another major factor.

Learning about all the mistakes and near misses that happen in your department or company will give you a great source of information about all the improvements you can make to your process. Repeated mistakes by one team  member needs to be discussed and reviewed about what the root cause is. If you find that the root cause is that the employee really is not fit for this job, you will have to move them somewhere else or work on them moving on.

The majority of the problems in the company though usually stem from unclear goals, unclear or failing processes, unclear communication and lacking supervision or management leading to lack of motivation, no learning and repeated issues.

Give it a try, start with asking for clear reports on issues that have gone wrong and establish a no blame policy to encourage participation.

Let me know how it goes or email us with questions about it and we’ll be happy to help.

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