Richa Bansal

Want Your Team To Grow? Let Them Make Mistakes.

In one of my early engineering projects, I was put in charge of designing a tool for a brand new application. Though I was a young engineer, my manager trusted me with the complete development of the tool. After a lot of analysis, I came up with a novel concept and took it through an expensive test. It failed miserably. During post-test analysis, we found that I had not taken a critical parameter into account, which let to the failed test. 

I feared that after this incident, my manager would not let me lead a project for a long time. Instead, he was very understanding, appreciated my innovative idea and asked me to share my learning with the whole department. Not only did this incident strengthen our relationship, but also it helped me become better and more confident at my job. 

Here’s what I learnt from my experience about how we can help our teams grow from making mistakes, and achieve great success.

Identify areas where making a mistake is OK

Some occupations like medicine, or certain roles where stakes are high, require one to be absolutely on top of their game. Though in other areas, it may be ok to let your team make mistakes, as long as it is not damaging to the company’s reputation, long-term financial health or client’s trust. Identify where it is OK for your team to make honest mistakes, and trust them to lead in those areas. 

Place safeguards in place

Put safeguards in place so that the failure does not cause long-term damage to the organization. This could be as simple as building a little extra budget and time in the project. Also, encourage your team to think of backup or contingency plan. This is good risk management, and will teach your team to look more holistically at the potential issues that they may need to tackle to make a project successful. 

Assign accountability but also provide support

As important as it is to let your team make mistakes, it is also necessary to assign accountability. This is not the same as assigning blame. Accountability is necessary so that the employee can work on identifying the root cause and rectifying the issue. Good employees takes ownership of their mistakes. But this is only possible with the support of their leadership, so that they feel comfortable in taking risks and failing.

Allow them to grow from mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. What’s important is to know why we failed so that the same mistake is not repeated twice. Encourage your employees to not only understand the root cause of the failure but also to share their learning with others, so that the rest of the team grows with them.
"When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it."
— Paul Bear Bryant.

Great success does not come without failures.
Experienced leaders allow their teams to fail and support them along the way. If your employees constantly fear failure, they will stay in their comfort zone and not think of innovative, out-of-the box ideas. Only when they are allowed to fail without fear of repercussion, can they achieve great success.

Do you agree?

If you liked this article, you will surely like 7 Mistakes You Must Avoid For Good Leadership.


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