Plan On Failing

When your employees screw up-and they will-how should you deal with it?
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This story appears in the January 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

What happens when someone in your organization makes a mistake? Do people trip all over themselves trying to cast blame or do they fix the problem and move on? In The Accountability Revolution: Achieve Breakthrough Results in Half the Time! (IMPAQ Publishing), author Mark Samuel recommends "recovery planning"-concentrating on correcting problems rather than punishing culprits.

Samuel says you should create an environment of safety, not comfort. Comfortable workers are unlikely to be creative, take risks or try new things, because that would make them uncomfortable. By contrast, employees who feel safe can embrace change without fear of punishment if they make mistakes.

Many people operate with the belief that being perfection-oriented optimizes performance, but that's a myth, Samuel explains. The reality: Being recovery-oriented optimizes performance. Emphasizing perfection creates paralysis and delays action; and when a problem occurs, the organization isn't equipped to handle it.

Outside the business world, recovery systems are standard procedure, says Samuel. Sports teams practice recovery plays for those inevitable times when players drop the ball. Theater companies have recovery systems in place in case someone forgets a line or the set malfunctions. Medical teams know what they'll do if something goes wrong during a procedure.

Recovery systems lead to greater accountability, Samuel insists, because people feel safer taking action, and action keeps organizations growing and flourishing.

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 14 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

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Edition: July 2017

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