Professional courage and influence - Lesson 6: your reflections


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CIPD Staff

17 Jan, 2020 10:43

Welcome to the online community learning space for the lesson: Take responsibility for mistakes. Use this forum to discuss the community reflective activity in the lesson. Read the contributions of others, ‘liking’ those you find helpful and add your unique reflections to the conversation by replying to this post. Click here to return to the lesson page at any time.

Community reflective activity:
What attributes underpin a work environment which values and harnesses the potential of mistakes and how can we encourage people to role model these attributes? 

  • I think it's important for people with influence to walk the walk. It's surprising how often people will find any other words rather than "we made a mistake". For example we have a pretty big focus on continuous improvement where I work, but there are a large group of people who see changes as "we tried that before". Just because it didn't work at the time doesn't mean that we were wrong to do it but we do need to own up to the fact that it didn't work. Likewise if we change direction on something we need to be able to say that the old way isn't working anymore.

    We can encourage people to role model these behaviours by starting small, i.e. in 1-2-1 conversations and then reinforcing the good behaviour. If someone owns up to a mistake then it shouldn't be used as something to beat them over the head with, blame culture is a big problem here.
  • I think leadership demonstrating behaviours in relation to this is important even if this is using story telling to highlight how maybe we tried something but it didn't work, so this is what we learnt and we took this action instead or the outcome was X. Encouraging collaboration to problem solve where mistakes occur is equally important to show that it's okay to fail sometimes but we can work together to solve rather than fuel a blame culture.
  • All levels of the team need to showcase this so everyone feels confident when admitting mistakes and know support is there when needed.
  • Charlotte makes a really good point about blame cultures, the opposite of environments where mistakes are accepted. It might be a cliché but I am drawn to the idea of ‘failing forwards’ – learn from the past, think of the future. For example…

    1. Have no regrets.
    2. Accept reality.
    3. Don't be a victim, be a strategist.
    4. Be focused.
    5. Approach every day as a school day.

  • Management only have the power to bring / improve such culture of acceptance of small failures.

    If the management is not doing following mistakes, chances are high to create a culture of accepting mistakes in a contained environment

    1. Less communication with employees
    2. Lack of constructive feedback
    3. Failure to provide employees "The BIG picture"
    4. Failure to recognize employee accomplishments
    5. Failure to lead by example


    Risk-Averse culture is a key Obstacle for innovation. If management identifies this and take proper actions, automatically the potential of employees is un-locked. Giving room to make small mistakes and learn encourages and engages employees a lot. 

    Strategies for learning from failure 

  • I think most replies highlight the importance of leadership role modelling, which I’d agree with

    Giving individuals the space to admit to / amend mistakes is important too, rather than jumping to call it out which can cause embarrassment which is unpleasant enough & given appropriate time & space, perhaps entirely avoidable

    Ensuring attempts to cover up or walk away from mistakes, particularly potentially damaging ones, should be nipped in the bud in line with organisational values
  • A work environment that values and understands that mistakes can happen leads to a less stressed workforce, if we are constantly in fear of making a mistake the more mistakes will happen because we feel anxious and under stress and so it becomes a vicious circle. If we acknowledge mistakes and look at at how they happened we can then put measures in place to mitigate the same thing happening in future. People respect that mistakes are not intentional and appreciate genuine apologies, the first thing to do is always say sorry and work out a way to mitigate the mistake. If we model these attributes ourselves others will be more open to owning their mistakes, building a more open and honest working environment where we are not judge by what we did wrong but rather by how we fixed it.
  • Its true 'Perfection is a myth' but its hard to make mistakes when it is constantly in the back of your mind if you do, the worst can happen. You can lose your job and then all the bad thoughts come along with it. Managers need to explain and build that culture within the organisation, that they are normal and part of life. No they aren't expected all the time but you will make them, and when you do, own it, accept it and see what you can learn from it moving forward.

    The culture created is a top down approach and that needs to be a consistent approach for it to work.