Let Your People Fail!
As a kid, I grew up playing a lot of baseball. I dreamed about being able to hit the ball like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle, and of pitching like Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson. They were my heroes then and they continue to be my heroes today.
Did you know that there were more than 8,000 times during his career when Aaron failed to get a hit? Mays failed to get a hit almost seven out of every ten times he batted. Mantle stuck out over 1,700 times. Koufax did not have a winning season until his seventh year in the big leagues. Gibson lost 40 percent of all the games he ever pitched.
Yet these men are all Hall of Famers, considered among the greatest ever to have played the game. How would your organization react to such failure rates? If these men were employees in your company, would they be inducted into the company’s “Hall of Fame” or its “Hall of Shame?”
How most respond to failure
Think about how most organizations respond to failure. Most companies do everything they can to prevent failures, to keep mistakes from happening. They over-regulate and over-stipulate in an attempt to control every possible contingency in which employees might make mistakes. And if a mistake happens, it often calls forth a “hide it, cover it up, don’t bring attention to it because we might get in trouble” mentality.
Companies end up paralyzing themselves, squelching any attempt at the new or different because of a general fear of failure. But, as Fred Smith, founder of Federal Express, says, “Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something different.”
Create a culture that allows failure
Perhaps our greatest challenge is to create a culture that allows freedom to fail and try again while tenaciously pushing everyone toward taking their best shots.
When employees are given opportunities to experiment, to try new things, to use their brains, their commitment soars. And even if some experiments or pilot tests or good plans violently executed blow up, so what?
Your company will still be light-years ahead of your competitors, because most of them continue to live within systems that would rather play it safe and remain mediocre than risk failure—even temporary failure.
Excerpt from Culture 24/7: Four Keys to Growing a Great Workplace by Dr. Jim Harris. Get it here.