I recently received a video from my coach (yes, consultants have coaches too!) and it 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.  Through this study, the researchers discovered that the most effective teams actually make the most mistakes. Wait – what?! Just 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 in the workplace we struggle to own our mistakes. We go through our day to day doing 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 be handled.  Would you say your team embodies the following qualities:

  • They are able to discuss challenges/mistakes freely
  • They do not have a fear of reprimand for discussing challenges/mistakes
  • They can take what they’ve learned and run with it

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, build quality work relationships, and, in turn, be highly effective.  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