As entrepreneurs, we believe failing leads to winning. Otherwise, we never take chances and gain from the upside.
One place where I took a gamble was when expanding our team at Practice Makes Perfect -- a nonprofit that partners with schools and operates their summer school program in inner-city neighborhoods, supporting students from elementary school to college matriculation. At the time, I was only responsible for managing the errors of one person, myself. I began to wonder how I was going to manage the errors of an entire team. What if they made a detrimental mistake? How would we both react? Would they tell me?
After our first hire was accommodated, I realized that the greatest loss did not come from mistakes made but rather from employees feeling reluctant to share their mistakes. I recalled advice that I received early on in my professional career. I was encouraged to acknowledge my mistakes, take ownership of them and then ask how we can move forward together as a team as soon as I made a mistake.
Here are three tips that I learned to avoid setbacks and establish open communication at a company:
Make support and resources known.
Employees are more likely to share mistakes if you establish a supportive environment by introducing them to resources when they first assimilate to your company. If they don’t feel confident in your ability to help them, they won’t reach out to you when difficulties occur.
Share mistakes publicly.
As a leader, people will imitate your actions and behaviors. By sharing when you make mistakes, individuals on the team will be more likely to share when they make mistakes. Being vulnerable about your own faults will normalize sharing and in return, bond your team.
Avoid negative consequences.
The worst response you can have when someone makes an error is to raise your voice. Instead, pull your employee to the side and discuss the situation in a calm and collected manner. People tend to be more receptive to feedback when you speak to them respectfully.
The longer it takes to correct a mistake, the larger it gets. Create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their mistakes when they happen. Failures and errors are inevitable in the process of building innovation. To foster growth, we must make sure our team feels as comfortable sharing errors as we do in solving them.