Teamwork and mistakes

Best of 2015, first published on February 4, 2015
As leaders, how we handle mistakes – our own and our team members’ – sends a strong message about the workplace climate. This post provided some helpful steps for addressing the mistakes that inevitably occur.

–Dee Anne Bonebright

If we aren’t making mistakes, then we likely aren’t trying enough new things outside our comfort zone, and that in itself is a mistake.  — Amy Reese Anderson

One of the challenging truths about leadership is that people are looking at our example to set the workplace climate.  And nowhere is that more true than in managing mistakes. It’s easy to say “this is a safe place to make mistakes.”  It’s more challenging to make sure our coworkers and team members feel supported to take risks, even when it doesn’t work out as planned.

mistakeAmy Reese Anderson wrote an article in Forbes online that provided some helpful tips for creating a climate in which individuals and teams can make mistakes safely. As leaders, we can:

  1. Identify the areas of our work where mistakes can occur without causing significant damage to the organization’s mission and vision. Allow employees freedom in those areas, and provide more oversight to critical activities.
  2. Create clear expectations around risk and mistakes. For example, Anderson’s policy was that the entire team would support anyone who made a particular mistake for the first time. However, employees were expected to learn from the experience and not repeat that mistake again.

As employees and team members, we will all make mistakes. When it happens, Anderson says we should:

  1. Learn from it – objectively figure out what we did and why it was wrong
  2. Own it – take accountability for the damage without making excuses
  3. Fix it – do what we can to make things right
  4. Prevent repeats- create safeguards to be sure that mistake doesn’t happen again

How do you practice these steps when you make mistakes?  How do you establish a climate where team members can do the same?

Dee Anne Bonebright


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