Why You Need to Give Employees the Freedom to Make Mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes.

While mistakes can be scary and costly to businesses, the best managers know that great employees need the freedom to make mistakes if they are to learn and grow.

Lior Arussy, President of customer experience firm, Stravity, believes that mistakes can be the sign of great employees…

“Mistakes are the result of employees who take risks – the type of risks that will lead to excellence and breakthrough. Do not crush that spirit, embrace it. Celebrating mistakes will send the message of empowerment better than any memo can. It will be a wonderful, not mistaken, step in the right direction.”

While you still need to do what you can to alleviate risk, giving employees the freedom to make mistakes (and learn from them) will help them become more innovative, forward thinking, proactive and productive.

Give employees the freedom to make mistakes

To get the most out of your team, you need to create an environment where employees aren’t afraid to make mistakes. Of course, its up to you which mistakes are forgivable and which aren’t, but getting angry about every error leaves no room for innovation.

Managing Editor of TechRepublic, Toni Bowers, believes that getting angry or upset when employees make mistakes could be detrimental to their learning process…

“For an employee to truly develop professionally, she has to learn by her own mistakes. And a manager’s hysterical reaction to those mistakes isn’t going to do any good. All that does is make an employee avoid repeating a mistake because she wants to avoid her manager’s wrath. Isn’t it better for an employee to understand a mistake in terms of procedural problems it caused?”

When employees make mistakes, stay calm and take the time to help them understand what went wrong. Make sure to let employees know that you value their initiative and work to find a solution instead of focusing on the mistake.

Mistakes can be a symptom of productivity

Dan Levin, COO of Box, argues that most companies are rewarding employees who spend a lot of time to deliver perfection, instead of those who are able to deliver useful solutions quickly, albeit with a few mistakes…

“Mistakes are a cost, but speed is a benefit. It’s critical to understand that at some point in your efforts to minimize mistakes, you’re going to lose out on maximizing workplace productivity and efficiency.”

When you’re moving fast, your team are going to make mistakes, it’s a part of growing. Levin recommends rewarding team members who do the most useful work, not those who make the least mistakes.

Identify areas of risk and protect them from mistakes

While you need to give your employees the freedom to make mistakes, you also need to protect your business and your clients.

Entrepreneur and Angel investor, Amy Rees Anderson, learned to identify areas in her business where the effect of mistakes would be least damaging…

“I took careful attention to make sure that any areas where we would damage our clients and the trust they had placed in us were off limits for significant risk without serious executive involvement and oversight. I identified other areas where I could feel more comfortable allowing people the freedom to experiment on new and better ways of doing things.”

How do you deal with employees’ mistakes? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Photo Credit: SHUN [iamtekn] via Compfight cc

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