DSC00814“What I appreciate is that when I was blowing it, you didn’t judge me.” The team member speaking looked across the table at me with warmth. I don’t think that anyone else had any idea what was being talked about. “You helped me see what I needed to do, and you went through it with me. You didn’t condemn me.”

There was a pause. We soaked in the good feeling of the semi-private moment. Another staff member looked at me and said, “Just don’t try to do too much, too fast. You’ll have to rely on other people. I thought when I first worked for you that you micro-managed, but then I saw later that you didn’t, that you let people do their jobs, but just watch that.”

I looked around the table at my staff. The moment felt good. We were in the middle of an exercise from  Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage. The instructions were to say something you thought the team member was doing well and add any suggestions for improvement, perhaps something to watch out for that might trip the person up.

It was good, the affirmation, and the honesty. I thought the team might not do well at the part of the assignment where they were to suggest improvements. They did. It was almost like they had just been waiting for permission to be helpful to each other.

It worked, but partly because a number of the team members are already good friends. They love each other, and that already-established warmth and trust, it helped the room.

Later, one of the team members told me, “My friends and I haven’t always been honest with each other. I’m going to stop doing that.”

I like it. I like the power of it. You create an open atmosphere in your organization where people can be honest, in appropriate and positive ways, and the next thing you know, they are establishing a redemptive culture of mistake-making. Cool! They begin looking at each others mistakes and weaknesses not as disqualifying, not as behavior to judge and condemn, not as,”Well, fire her!” but as an opportunity to help each other get better.

Recently, I told someone who we had helped through a tough mistake, “Hey man, we love you.” He quipped back, “I know that; otherwise you would have called the police.” Touche!

Sometimes we do need to call the police, and sometimes we do need to let employees go, but too often bosses and teams default to quick and dirty solutions when we all would be much better served by allowing mistakes to become part of a process by which we  create growth and improvement, a process by which we churn out healthy leaders.

Mistakes and weaknesses; all teams have them, we all make them, but in our businesses and our homes and our churches, it is full of warmth, good will and future promise to go through our failures with honesty and love — together.

  1. Anonymous says:

    I love being part of a church where this happens.

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