If you really want a high-performance organization, you have to have a high tolerance for mistakes.
Sounds backward, doesn’t it? In a high-performance environment, people don’t make mistakes, right?
Sure they do. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s how you handle them that matters. If people think they’re not allowed to make mistakes, they’ll just work harder to cover them up. And nobody will learn anything.
Here’s an account of how one enlightened manager recognized and acted on that insight, recounted by consultant Raj Bose:
‘Here’s my head on a platter’
“Many years ago, when I was a young manager at a Japanese multinational company,” he says, “the company lost $25,000 in revenue due to an error by another manager. The manager walked up to his boss and muttered, ‘I guess you would like me to resign.’
“The director, a white-haired man with years of experience in the company, said: ‘Are you kidding? We just invested $25,000 in training you. How can we afford to let you go? Go back to work and don’t make this mistake again!’ ”
Of course, nobody is suggesting you tolerate employees who consistently waste the organization’s resources. But sometimes, a big mistake — and the willingness to learn from it — can be the catalyst for improving performance.
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