I want to share three questions I borrowed from David Marquet and challenge you to spend time reflecting on these questions in relation to the team or group you lead. David Marquet is a retired Captain from the US Navy and the author of Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders, which has been on my recommended reading list since I first read it a number of years ago. If you have participated in a Dare to Be Great workshop you have heard me talk about David Marquet.
The three questions are:
- Are your people trying to achieve excellence, or just trying to avoid mistakes?
- Has your organization become action averse to avoid errors?
- Do you spend more time discussing errors that celebrating successes?
Are your people trying to achieve excellence, or just trying to avoid mistakes?
Is there is a difference in the level of commitment, and productivity between people trying to achieve excellence and people trying to avoid mistakes? Is there is a difference in the level of service provided to the people who are your customers or clients? Absolutely there is. In fact, there is a huge difference.
Has your organization become action averse to avoid errors?
To err is human, however the best way for people to try and avoid error is to only do the bare minimum; do as little as possible to get through the day without screwing up and getting in trouble. Why do people in groups and organizations try to avoid mistakes and become action averse to avoid error? The number one answer is Fear. Fear of how the boss will react when someone makes a mistake or screws up. Fear of being ridiculed, demeaned, embarrassed in front of your peers or fear. Fear of being demoted or fired and not being able to provide for your family. Fear caused by toxic leadership.
Do you spend more time discussing errors that celebrating successes?
How you answer this third question will likely provide insights into your answers to the first two questions. If you spend most of your time talking about mistakes, errors and the things people do wrong, then you will likely create a culture where people are trying to avoid mistakes and become action averse to avoid error and avoid the wrath of the boss.
If however, you have created a culture where people are committed to the pursuit of excellence and are striving to improve, understanding that in the striving sometimes they will make mistakes and experience failure, then people will be willing to take action in the pursuit of excellence. If you have created a culture of Psychological Safety, then people will be willing to ask questions, offer suggestions on how things could be improved, ask for help and come forward when they do make a mistake. In this culture people see mistakes and error as an opportunity to reflect on, discuss and dissect the error in order learn and grow from the experience.
I encourage you to spend some time observing your team and reflecting on those three questions. If possible, find a way to have the people you lead provide honest feedback on how they would answer those questions. If people are unwilling to provide honest feedback in response to those questions then you have your answer and you need to take action to change the culture of fear.
Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey. Register Now for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop.