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3 Ways Great Leaders Make Room for Mistakes


If you lead, do you expect mistakes? Do you anticipate that your team will mess up? Do allow for setbacks? Errors? Misfires?

If you lead, you should.

On any team, whether it's a family, an executive suite, or a sales department conflict is inevitable. Miscommunication, missed expectations and misinformation is an absolute given at some point. The question isn't if this will happen, but when.

Great leaders, realistic leaders make allowance and make room for this to happen and research shows that high performing teams and organizations allow for a culture of mistakes to be made.

Why is this level of transparency important? In creating a culture of transparency, a leader's actions and behaviors fabricate a workplace climate that generates trust, engagement, and buy-in from employees. Many books describe systems, modes of communication, and methods to employ to yield higher transparency. Those are important tools, but without a leader consistently behaving in ways that enlist willing employees to accomplish strategic objectives, those approaches are not sufficient. Let's say that again. It isn't systems or procedures that create transparency, it is your behavior as the leader that accomplishes that.

A study from the University of Florida says these are 3 ways to make room for mistakes and to be ok with it:

1. Be vulnerable - Vulnerability demonstrates sincerity of being and builds credibility. It does require leaders to have a certain level of maturity, judgment, and self-awareness, though, to gauge the ability of employees' accurately interpreting and disseminating the information that is revealed. How do you know if you're a vulnerable leader? You are open to and frequently ask for feedback from your team on your performance.

2. Be honest - When leaders hold onto information, for whatever reason, they erode trust. If leaders don't have all the pieces in place or are waiting on more data to come in, they should say so. This shows respect for employees and understanding of their concern and need for information. This type of honesty goes a long way to eliminating that pervasive feeling that there are hidden agendas. There is no better role-model than a courageous leader who is willing to be fiercely honest with good news and bad news. This sends the message to your employees that they can handle the information and that they can count on you to connect the dots for them when needed.

3. Hold the tough conversations - If you want to be a leader of a mediocre team or organization, then dance around issues of performance. This avoidance results in a loss of confidence and security. It also creates a climate where employees hold back in giving their full commitment. Why? Because employees need a workplace environment that does not tolerate uncivil interactions, unproductive gossiping, the blaming of others, and negative behaviors that jeopardize the teams' performance towards goals and objectives. Being a transparent leader means making sure that employees are crystal clear on your commitment to holding those conversations, when needed. There should be no question that inconsiderate and disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated.

The great John Wooden said, "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes." If you allow a culture of mistakes, then perhaps your people are engaged and taking risks and that, when handled appropriately, can take you and your company to incredible heights.


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