The Value of Mistakes

Too many people are afraid to make mistakes. They take the road well-traveled and try to stay under the radar. “Good is good enough”, because if they go out of their comfort zone they may make mistakes.

Simply put, they play it safe.

While this may not be a recipe for failure, if yours is an innovative, growth-oriented organization it will hinder growth. If your employees are timid about expanding into unknown territory, you will be held back in achieving your goals.

I attended a meeting between a manager and his direct report where it became increasingly clear that this dynamic was playing out. To my delight, the manager said, “New mistakes are always welcome”.

The employee, unfortunately, froze at this mention. His comfort zone had been breached and he was defensive for the rest of the meeting.

Mistakes are welcome for many reasons. It means you’re trying new things. It implies that you’re not satisfied with the status quo. A mistake may inadvertently lead to a new solution.

You get the idea. I have two caveats to this advice. First, if someone keeps making the same mistake continually, it’s a big red flag that you aren’t paying attention. People need to learn from their mistakes, not repeat them.

Second, your organizational culture needs to embrace the philosophy of welcoming mistakes. If it’s a punitive environment, it won’t work.

Coach your employees to dip their toes into this unknown territory and let me know what happens.

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