If I knew then . . . .
Several years ago, some people who work at this company might have accused Frank* of being a micromanager. For years, he went home at night dead tired. He couldn’t do anything else. Finally, he asked himself “why”?
When he saw someone about to make a mistake he had made before, he would step in and correct their mistakes before they saw them or before they experienced them.
He forgot that people learn when they make their own decisions – especially when they make a mistake. He would find himself in a project with a senior person and would say, “No, we’re just going to do it this way.”
It stopped his people from growing. They only did what Frank instructed them to do. They were afraid of getting outside that box and doing things on their own. They were constantly coming to his office to get feedback and permission before moving ahead. He couldn’t concentrate on thinking about the direction and growth of the company. He felt overwhelmed and exhausted all the time.
He had created an atmosphere where people were scared of making a mistake.
Now it’s a different story: People are no longer paralyzed with the sheer fear of making a mistake. Frank learned that you don’t get the best results when the consequences of making a mistake are overwhelming or scary. If that’s the case, there’s very little that’s going to allow his people to be as creative and innovative as their clients need them to be – as they can be. They will simply do what they believe he wants.
At a staff meeting within the next several months, Frank told them, “It’s OK, make mistakes. Ask for help if you really don’t know the answer.”
Now they have great checklists for ensuring that when they begin a project, it includes who’s responsible for what, when it happens and what the expectation was from the client. They set themselves up to win.
When new people join the team, it takes a little while for them to understand that mistakes, while not encouraged, are allowed as long as you’re learn from them and as long as good comes from it.
How do you encourage your people to innovate?
*Real situation, fictitious name.
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