Life is made up of wins and losses; the good and bad times; your successes and mistakes. But, what if I told you they can be one and the same? What if your mistakes and successes have more in common than you think? It is time to rethink how we judge performance. We need to spend more time in analyzing mistakes to pull the good out of them. Now, this doesn’t mean to completely throw away striving for excellence, but what this really means is that you should know mistakes will be made along the way. It is more about accepting them, rather than resisting them. These moments are there to make us better thinkers and to also prevent us from making the same mistakes twice. These are the learning moments.
Our responsibility in all of this is to train ourselves to stop and recognize them. In the moments where we find success, we can take notes on what we did correctly, so success is repeated. Mistakes offer opportunities to take notes so we know what not to repeat. Instead of shying away from our mistakes and not even wanting to acknowledge them due to fear, what if we as leaders embraced mistakes? What if we not only allowed them, but encouraged them? A trial by error experiment, if you will.
I can still remember a quote that my boss at my first job told me:
No matter what you do wrong, it can be fixed. [Tweet This]
This simple quote really got me thinking at an early age about how people treat their mess-ups in their work. I still have yet to find many situations that cannot be fixed. I have worked in this type of work environment where freedom is given, and I’ve also worked in an environment that punishes mistakes, and I can say that the difference seen in employees is astonishing. In an environment where there is less pressure placed on employees, the stress of messing up on the individual is lifted, and better work is produced. It’s in this environment that freedom is created to work and flow in.
Why is this important?
Freedom in the workplace breeds creativity. [Tweet This]
I may be the first person who has ever told you this, but it’s okay to mess up. Simply put, if you are afraid to mess up, then the wrong culture has been put in place. But the good news is that it isn’t too late. Whether you work for micromanagers or control freaks, you can be the change in the culture you are currently in.
Here are three ways to create freedom in stepping out on a limb and begin giving permission to mess things up:
1. Realize that you, your coworkers, nor your boss are perfect.
The moment that someone actually admits this and stops taking themselves so seriously is the moment that mistakes can be used for good, and freedom begins.
Perfection can only be made through mistakes.
Imagine with me for a moment a world without Michael Jordan. Can you imagine the NBA without MJ? I sure can’t. His leadership, high-flying dunks, and the state of the sport as we know it would be very different if he would have given up due to his “mistakes.” It sure would have been easy to give up along the way since he lost almost 300 games (that’s more games than many NBA players have court time in), missed over 9000 shots (again more shots than an average NBA player even takes), and 26 times he was given the ball to take the game winning shot and missed. Through this, he learned how to persevere and that is what a lot of people miss — the chance to take mistakes and turn them into opportunities.
I can accept failure; everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying. – Michael Jordan
Now, can you imagine a world without Thomas Edison? The light bulb is a very important invention, so I am very appreciative for his work. Edison spent a lifetime of taking the work that had already been done on the lightbulb by others before him and continued to persevere with his own ideas on making the lightbulb work properly. His vision for the product and perseverance outlasted his failed attempts.
Towards the end of the process he is quoted as saying,
I have not failed. I have just found 9,999 ways that do not work. -Thomas Edison
I absolutely love the perspective that Edison had. He didn’t ask for permission to fail, but he took it. What if we began to see things the same way that Edison did?
What if we saw getting up and trying as the true beginning of learning?
If these two greats went through those experiences and can still go after their goals, what is stopping you from turning your mishaps into lessons for yourself and others to learn from? Maybe your excuses are the very things stopping you from daring to dream big and conquering your biggest fears. Stop the excuses, attempt what you never thought you could, and achieve more than you ever dreamed of. All of this starts with taking the first step in the right direction and that is realizing that you will make mistakes along the way.
2. Communicate your plans.
Before you dive head first into this new take on experimenting in the workplace, you need to communicate to others what your plan actually is, and what you feel the need to take risks in. This will be your form of organized chaos.
The first step in this process is to fully get others on board with you, and the best way to make this happen is to explain your goals upfront to everyone involved, so you can begin to sell the idea. This one step helps the micromanagers in your life cope with change. Here, you need to explore the best possible ways to effectively present your ideas and get as many people as possible on your side.
The second step here is listen to your team and hear what they want to achieve through the process. Every person on your team matters. Other people have different perspectives and that alone will help you to become more in tune with the true needs of the entire team. The easiest way of getting everyone on board with an idea is to take the time to listen to the ideas of others. Everyone wants to be heard and to know their ideas are appreciated.
After each idea is out on the table, the third and final step in communicating with your team is to actually construct the plan. Once guidelines are created and communication is established, then it is time to think outside of the box while staying inside the predetermined boundaries.
3. Determine the best and worst case scenarios.
The next step in the equation is showing those around you that better results can be achieved if creativity begins to take place in the work environment on a regular basis. Here are just a few ways to begin encouraging creativity:
- Reward it constantly. Praise your team in front of others. Put creative people in lead positions whenever possible. Show others through this that you want and need creativity to be repeated.
- Communicate to your team what your creative expectations are.
- Encourage your team to realize that they are just one creative move from achieving greatness. New ideas are groundbreaking and people buy-in to new products. Give clients what they want by doing the necessary, creative steps behind-the-scenes.
Creativity + Risk = Huge Results
Use these points to learn from your mistakes and to coach others on what you concluded from them. Also, don’t just learn from your mistakes, but also take the time to learn from your achievements. I am not talking about making chaos a daily activity, but I am talking about the need for an organized discussion of the possibilities could lead to. Creativity and taking risks are precursors to shifting momentum in your favor. Learn how to effectively stand out in the midst of the noise. Today, you can stop hiding behind the fear of making mistakes and begin to embrace the wisdom gained through choosing creativity, even if there are a few bumps in the road.