When people stretch to hone their talents, they are sure to make mistakes. This is an important part of success, but only when every effort is made to learn from the bits that go wrong. Everyone makes mistakes - even you. After all, you are only human. Great companies regard mistakes as par for the course and part of the learning process. Think back to a mistake you made - I bet you never made it again.
Responding in a positive manner when something goes wrong is a skill in itself. This is where trust comes in. Understanding that no one makes a mistake on purpose will calm your thinking, giving enough time for the person to explain. Remember those times of practising over and over again how to own up, hoping you will get it all out before your manager hits the roof - unhappy times, indeed! Punishment ensures that the colleague will never take a risk again - so no more mistakes, but no more creativity either.
Listen, empathise, explore how the mistake occurred, and look for alternative responses for the future. Be the ‘grit in the oyster', using every tool to help development. Validate the desire to do a good job and you will gain trust and commitment beyond measure. What has happened may well be the best training available. These mistakes rarely happen again, but if they do, more decisive action needs to be put in place to understand if it is a lack of capability or lack of commitment. Both must be addressed.
When developing people is a management objective, using mistakes is just one way to extend knowledge and understanding. On-going appraisal maximises learning by considering actions and their outcomes. Doing this regularly is the only way to make sure that all avenues are covered. This is why many of the great companies hold appraisals or regular one-to-ones each month at least. (See Chapter 8.)
Of course, appraisal ideally goes both ways. Who better to say how a manager is doing than those who report in? When feedback is two way, the manager can improve their own style while learning how to support the direct report more effectively. At Flight Centre, the manager's manager looks for ways to further develop the team leader by speaking to each team member once a month. In many companies this would be frowned on for contravening the hierarchy - it is difficult to ‘go round your manager' to speak to someone more senior. However, the gains are enormous, if challenging and a bit on the scary side.
Keeping people motivated and energetic is not always an easy job, so the more support a manager gets, the better.