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Allowing Workers Togrow From Mistakes

By IAN FERGUSON

Good employees make mistakes, and great leaders allow them to. We all make mistakes; every one of us. If we are not making mistakes, then we are probably not being innovative and stepping outside our comfort zone enough. That, in itself, is a mistake.

John Wooden once said: "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything." Mistakes are the path to great ideas and innovation. They are the stepping stones to moving outside the status quo and achieving heightened growth, where new discoveries are made and great lessons learned. Mistakes are not failures; they are simply the process of eliminating ways that do not work in order to come closer to those that will.

It is true that mistakes allow employees to learn and grow, but sometimes mistakes cost you. Sometimes they cost the business the business itself, and safeguards must be put in place to mitigate against this reality. It is crucial, then, that businesses minimise the risks of loss to the customer, partners, employees and, ultimately, the bottom line. Our critical role is to determine how to balance allowing mistakes while reducing risk.

Great employers find ways to help employees use their shortcomings and mistakes to learn from them. When mistakes become lessons and coaching opportunities, an environment of continuous improvement is adopted, and employees grow and mature into great employees.

Good employees do what it takes to rectify their wrongs. They are willing to do whatever they can to fix the problem and make it right.

Certainly, there are times when the damage is done and recompense cannot be made, but good employees do their very best to repair whatever damage has been done for the sake of their own reputation, their clients and the business.

How, then, do employers create this environment where individuals can feel safe to make mistakes and grow? Here is a brief list of steps to follow:

  1. Ensure that employees are acquainted with the company's policies from day one.

  2. Use language that is affirming and non-intimidating.

  3. Communicate to team members that they are to own mistakes immediately and, depending on the severity, seek help in correcting them. 'Cover up' must be discouraged.

  4. Provide coaching and mentorship for employees who might be struggling.

  5. Keep the communication door open, and allow employees to feel comfortable approaching you about anything.

  6. Recognise and reward success through positive reinforcement, so as to make it a habit.

  7. Do not immediately go to punitive measures when an employee has made a mistake.

  8. Weigh the employees' worth before terminating them after a major mistake has been made.

It was Meg Cabot who said courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.

Leaders must not instill fear in team members such that they do not take risks and make valiant efforts to advance business. It is in the consistent trying, and sometimes failing, that greatness is achieved.

• NB: Ian R. Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities.

He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues.

He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.

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