March 14, 2018

Permission to Fail

A look at how creating a team, in which it is okay to fail and learn from your mistakes.

Permission to Fail

An important part of leading is a team is to show that it is okay to fail, as by doing so you learn and grow, which by far is more important. However, many teams and organisations may not see things this way, so I would like to dive into this topic a bit deeper.

We are all Human

Let's face it, we are all human and make mistakes somewhere along the line. I often see leader's hiding, or not willing, to admit their mistakes. This really leads to a breakdown in trust with the rest of the team.

The approach that has worked for me is to be vulnerable and admit when you are wrong. It can sometimes take some courage to admit that you have failed, but it makes you genuine, more human and builds rapport with your team. A team generally follows the model that you set, so if you admit to failure, then your team will see that it is okay to fail and talk about it.

When you say you messed up, you are modeling the behaviours you want to instil in the team.

It's Okay to Fail

Like I mentioned, it is okay to fail. This is how we learn and grow. We recently had an issue where migration scripts were run in production, due to a series of unfortunate events.

The person who ran the scripts apologized to the team for their mistake, but instead of "punishing" them, I said it was okay, we all make mistakes. I have said before that 90% of the time, when people make mistakes, there is more than likely a problem in the process (Which there was in this case). However, what was more important was the model & standard that was set for the team to see.

On a side note, the team really stuck together and sorted out the issue without blame or grudge. They are a great team and really impressed me!

Learning and Growing

Another side effect is that by doing the above, it teaches people leadership skills in their day-to-day job. They gain experience and life skills that they can spread to other teams when they leave the project.

People really appreciate leaders that they know cares for them and have all intentions of helping them grow. However, not all leaders are like this, and I know I have neglected my team in the past, but what matters is that you own up to this, admit it, and ask your team members what you can do to make themselves, as well as the team as a whole, better. My suggestion would be to ask them some of the following questions in your 1:1 sessions:

  • Where do you want to go in your career?
  • How can I help to get you there?
  • What can I do better to help you?
  • What issues do you see within the team?
  • What are your fears?

These types of questions will hopefully help both you and your team members grow. A quick tip, you will probably want to give your team members a heads up on the questions you will be asking before the 1:1, so that they can prepare.

I would just like to leave you with this quote that I recently heard, which somewhat applies, and really resonated with me:

People often respect their leaders because they have to, not because they want to.

Until next time...keep learning!