Recently I received a video from my coach (yes, consultants have coaches too!) that drastically changed the way I approach my projects, and even my team. The video highlighted a research project focused on psychological safety in the workplace.  In a nutshell, the researchers discovered that the most effective teams actually make the most mistakes. Wait – what?!  Like me, I’m sure reading that made you pause.

How can a team consistently making mistakes even be effective?

Aren’t the best teams the ones that have overcome their mistakes and make less of them?  In reality, no. We all make mistakes, yet, so often we struggle to own our mistakes. We do our best to showcase what we’ve done well, or what we could have done well, if someone else had simply done their job. It’s very seldom you hear someone say, “I totally messed up today” or “Wow, that didn’t work at all. I wonder where I went wrong?”

Think for a moment about a challenging situation in the workplace.  Now think about how that situation would currently be handled by your team.  Would you say your team embodies the following qualities:

  • Ability to discuss challenges/mistakes freely
  • Lack of fear of reprimand for discussing challenges/mistakes
  • Quick to learn from past situations and take action accordingly

If you’re answering no, that’s ok.  We’ve all been there… Owning mistakes is not easy.  It requires humility and vulnerability (some of my least favorite -ilities.)  Yet, when we are honest and accountable for our mistakes, we are more likely to garner respect, more readily trust others and build quality work relationships – that has all the makings of someone who is highly effective in their role.  So go out there and own those mistakes! Then, let me know how it goes.  I’d love to hear how this impacts you and your team.

Scott Tayloe
IEP Executive Consultant