Taking Risks and Making Mistakes

I’m currently reading “Speed of Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey.* (Click for a quick summary here). Like most business books written on culture or leadership themes, there is a lot of great, useful, familiar stuff in there. Including this:

“In our businesses, relationships, families, and personal lives, there is wisdom in recognizing the capacity of people to learn from their mistakes and to change. There is also wisdom in creating a culture that is safe for that to happen. A transparent culture of learning and growing will generally create credibility and trust, even when the immediate results are not the best. The more important desired result is growth, and growth cannot happen without risk.”

That quote from page 117 caught my attention and reminded me of one of our leadership guiding principles: We trust one another’s abilities and intentions, and allow each other room to fail.

To spark thought or conversation around your own relationship to the package-deal of taking risks, making mistakes, failing, growing, and learning, here are a few questions to ponder:

  • How hard it is for you when you make a mistake? What message are you sending to yourself when you make one? In what situations and/or with what people are you comfortable owning and sharing that you made a mistake? How about uncomfortable? Based on your experience, can you identify the conditions that make owning and sharing it easier or harder?
  • How hard is it for you to let others make mistakes? Understanding that different situations will prompt different reactions, what are your reactions when other people make mistakes? Why are those your reactions, what’s going on for you? Which of these reactions sends the message that it’s okay to try and fail, which send the message that it’s not?
  • Think about a team you currently work with. When considering mistakes, risks, failures, which do you hear more frequently: the language of ownership, support, learning, and creativity, or do you hear the language of avoidance, blame (directed at self or others), judgement, and discouragement?
  • Why is “We trust one another’s abilities and intentions, and allow each other room to fail” one of our leadership guiding principles? What could an individual or group gain when they feel free to take risks and make mistakes? What could they lose?

and my favorite question:

  • Are there any risks (in projects, goals, conversations, etc.) that you’re not taking right now because you are afraid of making a mistake or afraid that you might fail? Are you holding a task or responsibility back from someone because you’re afraid they are going to make a mistake? If you answered yes to either or both, list them out and start contemplating what is really getting in your way. Start digging deeper into the fear to see what’s really driving it.

If you find that you’d like to learn more or move toward a different relationship with taking risks, failing, and growing, please start exploring what that could look like. I am a resource to support you on that path, there’s a good chance if you look around you’ll find some right next to you as well.

Thank you for your time! -Becky

*Stephen M.R. Covey is the son of Stephen Covey, author of the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

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