As we navigate through these tough economic times, it’s easy for entrepreneurs and business owners to focus on minimizing risk and avoiding mistakes. But making mistakes in business is not only inevitable, it is critical to the growth of an entrepreneur and their business. Every entrepreneur (and employee) needs to learn how to fail-forward.
It can be tempting to play it safe and stick with what has worked in the past. However, as counterintuitive as it may seem, mistakes are the very ingredients that fuel the growth and evolution of your business. Taking risks is what leads to innovation and, ultimately, improvements that will help you stand out from your competitors.
Businesses that see mistakes as a natural part of the growth process often flourish.
Over my 20-plus years of building, scaling and investing in businesses, I have seen – time and time again – that the businesses that try too hard to avoid mistakes at all costs stagnate and eventually decline. They may feel justified in their need or, in some instances obsession, to reduce or completely avoid mistakes, but the end result is usually net-negative. The business might make fewer mistakes, but they limit its growth potential by an even greater degree.
On the other hand, businesses that see mistakes as a natural part of the growth process often flourish. In fact, I have found that most of the biggest breakthroughs in business come from the mistakes that were made along the way.
If you’re a CEO or in an executive leadership position, then cultivating a company culture that recognizes that mistakes can be the fuel for growth starts with you. It needs to come from the top. And yet, many entrepreneurs and executives believe that leadership is about protecting their team from making mistakes. It’s not.
You never want to dampen your team’s innovative spirits.
Having the strength to get back up and try again after making a mistake – in business and in life – is essential. My job as an entrepreneur and leader has always been to create an environment where my team takes ownership of their decisions and mistakes and uses the lessons that come to ultimately grow into a better operator and person. You never want to dampen your team’s innovative spirits. You want to encourage it, utilize it and empower them to get better.
Here are eight ways that leaders can create an environment where their employees feel safe to experiment, are comfortable making mistakes and are empowered to learn and grow from them.
1. Build trust and psychological safety
Leaders can create an environment where employees feel safe to experiment and make mistakes by building trust and psychological safety within their team. This involves showing empathy, being approachable and fostering an open and transparent communication culture.
2. Empower your team members to own projects
By giving employees responsibility and autonomy, they will be more invested in their work and feel more comfortable making mistakes. Leaders can encourage employees to take ownership of their projects and allow them to drive the decision-making process.
3. Encourage calculated risks
Leaders can encourage their team to take calculated risks by providing them with the necessary resources and support. This involves empowering employees to experiment with new ideas while also ensuring that they do their due diligence and research before implementing them.
4. Avoid the blame game
When mistakes happen, leaders should avoid placing blame on individual team members. Instead, they should treat every mistake as a learning opportunity and use a collaborative approach to identify the root cause of the issue and find ways to prevent it from happening again in the future.
5. Set stretch goals
Setting stretch goals can also help create an environment where employees feel safe to experiment and make mistakes. These goals should be challenging, but achievable, and should encourage employees to push beyond their limits and try new things. When employees achieve stretch goals, it not only boosts their confidence but also demonstrates to the team and organization as a whole that taking risks can lead to success.
By setting stretch goals that are challenging yet achievable, leaders can encourage employees to experiment and take risks.
However, it’s important to note that, if the goals are too far out of reach, employees may become discouraged, and it could have the opposite effect of what was intended. By setting stretch goals that are challenging yet achievable, leaders can encourage employees to experiment and take risks while also fostering a culture of growth and innovation.
6. Encourage learning opportunities
Leaders should provide opportunities for employees to learn and grow, whether that is through training programs, mentorship or simply by providing feedback on their work. By encouraging learning, leaders not only help employees improve their skills and knowledge, but they also create a culture of continuous improvement.
When employees feel that their leaders are invested in their growth, they are more likely to take risks and experiment without fear of failure. Additionally, by providing learning opportunities, leaders can help employees develop new ideas and approaches that can contribute to the growth of the organization.
Ultimately, encouraging learning is essential for creating a dynamic and innovative team culture that can drive business growth.
7. Hold fail-forward sessions
When employees see that their failures are met with understanding and support, they are more likely to try new things and experiment without fear of judgment. Leaders can hold fail-forward sessions where employees can share what they learned from their failures and how they plan to apply those lessons in the future.
8. Lead by example
Leaders should be willing to admit their own mistakes and demonstrate how and what they learned from them. When employees see that their leaders are open to feedback and willing to learn from their mistakes, they are more likely to adopt a similar mindset.
When employees see that their leaders are open to feedback and willing to learn from their mistakes, they are more likely to adopt a similar mindset.
Leaders can also model the behavior they want to see in their employees by taking calculated risks and encouraging experimentation. This helps create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for growth rather than as failures.
Learn and adjust
Mistakes are not a sign that you’re failing as an entrepreneur. If you and your team are not willing to make mistakes, then you’re probably not growing or advancing at the rate you should be.
The focus for you and your team should always be on learning from your mistakes and adjusting your strategy accordingly. If you make the same mistake twice, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice. Remember, just like how every success can unlock a new insight into how great businesses are built, every mistake will etch into your mind the hazards of an unprofitable path.
To be truly successful and ensure the long-term growth of your business, focus on creating an environment where you and your team can recognize that mistakes are the key to fueling your growth, not hindering it.
Jack Delosa is an entrepreneur, investor and media personality. He is the Founder and Chair of Australia’s largest business coaching provider, The Entourage, with a global community of over 800,000 business owners. Under his leadership, The Entourage has been awarded the 34th Best Place to Work in Australia, and is in the Top 50 in Australasia, by Best Places To Work.