One Mistake You Can’t Make

There are many things that go wrong in any business and even more that possibly can.  Today I want to talk about the biggest mistake a manager can make and how to avoid it.  Those of you who are regular customers here on the screed might be thinking I’m heading into a rant on accountability.  You’re not far off.  People must be held accountable once they’re clear about what their responsibilities entail.  That, however isn’t the mistake.

Let’s agree up front that stuff is going to go wrong.  Even if it’s not totally wrong, things might be done in a more efficient manner or in a way that resonates more loudly with your customers.  When whatever it is goes wrong, the first instinct is often to burn (figuratively) the responsible parties at the stake.  I’ve worked for managers who would dress down an employee loudly and publicly for an error.  Part of the reprimand was often something about how mistakes are unacceptable.  Period.


You cannot have employees thinking that failure of any sort is bad.  Yes, those responsible should be held accountable.  They can’t, however, feel free to create, innovate, and push the envelope if they perceive the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads at all times.  That’s paralyzing and inefficient.  It’s also a sure route to stagnation and failure.

The demand we can make is that people learn from whatever the mistake is and not repeat it.  I’m very comfortable chastising someone for doing the same thing wrong.  I’m less so when they tried, failed, and learned.  Good ideas happen because people follow their instincts without second guessing.  They speak up loudly when they have a new idea.  That’s the kind of environment in which I want to work.  You?

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