You’ve come a long way since your days in college.
Scratch that. You’ve come a long way since you began your leadership role. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the position for two weeks or two decades: Leadership requires a constant evolution of skills and management techniques.
But what leaders often don’t know how to handle – no matter how long they’ve been in leadership roles – are the inevitable and necessary employee mistakes. Yes, I said necessary, and I mean it. Your employees won’t have the chance to grow professionally if they don’t have the chance to make mistakes and learn from them.
As a leader, you can yammer on about the mistakes you made in the past in hopes that this will prevent your employees from making the same ones you did, but that won’t do your team any good.
See, your employees need to make mistakes – and you need to let them.
Where Can Mistakes Be Made
Granted, there are certain positions – and even certain departments – in which there is no room for error. You can’t have a miscalculation on your budget for the next fiscal year, for example. Distinguish between the areas where you and your clients need perfection and the areas where mistakes don’t pose any real threats to the business overall.
Allowing employees to make some mistakes means placing a certain amount of trust in your team — and that’s a good thing. As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to hand over control of parts of your business to other people, but it’s necessary. You can’t run a successful business if you insist on doing everything yourself.
As Heather Ripley, founder and CEO of Ripley PR, says:
“The number one reason entrepreneurs resist delegating authority to employees is lack of trust. It’s hard work to build a mutual, trusting relationship, but by putting an emphasis on trustworthiness during the hiring process it can help establish your expectations from the start.”
Help Employees Learn From Their Mistakes
Don’t let the fear of making mistakes prevent your employees from going above and beyond. Most employees learn by doing – and as they’re learning by doing, they’ll make some mistakes. That’s just a part of growing.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and I was still able to become a successful leader. Let your employees do the same so that they can evolve, too. The best employees will take the initiative to rectify their mistakes and learn from them so they don’t make them again.
Talking through failures gives employees the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and truly take ownership so that they can grow professionally. In fact, mistakes can even be signs of a great employee: They suggest that an employee is taking some risks to help your company grow.
Lior Russy, president of Strativity, puts it well when he says:
“Mistakes are the result of employees who take risks – the type of risks that will lead to excellence and breakthrough. Do not crush that spirit, embrace it. Celebrating mistakes will send the message of empowerment better than any memo can. It will be a wonderful, not mistaken, step in the right direction.”
Put Safeguards in Place
Mistakes can be powerful learning opportunities for employees – but that doesn’t mean employees should keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Once a mistake has been made, put a safeguard in place to help prevent the reoccurrence of that mistake. Find the root of the problem and work with the employee or even the team to find a solution. If necessary, consider developing stringent procedures to ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again.
You want to see your employees succeed just as much as the next leader, but in order for those employees to actually succeed (and for your business to thrive!), you need to leave some room for mistakes. Understand where mistakes can be made in your company, and when employees do make mistakes, help them learn from the situation.
I’m the leader I am today because I have made mistakes and have let my employees make mistakes. What defines your leadership?