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The role of leadership throws up many challenges, and one of the biggest is managing, developing, and encouraging your staff to fulfill their potential. Many leaders fall into the trap of micromanaging their staff, which can have a very negative effect on productivity and morale.

On the other side of the argument, we want to encourage and inspire our staff to grow and learn. After all, some of the best lessons in life are learned from making mistakes. Normally in life we learn much more when problems arise and are solved, rather than when everything goes perfectly according to plan. On a very basic level, an example of this is how we all learned to walk. Our parents had to let us fall over and risk being hurt for us to learn from our mistakes. The end result justified the means.

The challenge as a manager is being prepared to give your staff the authority and confidence to make decisions and take risks, which have the potential to go wrong. Clearly, for the safety of the business, there needs to be an element of safeguarding in place; you don’t want a Barings Bank style disaster. By setting up a structure and inspiring your staff to take calculated risks, the benefits to that individual and your company as a whole can be huge.


Three Benefits Of Taking Risks and Encouraging Mistakes


1. Risk Prevents Staff From Indecision and Encourages Progress

One of the biggest problems with staff who don’t feel empowered to take risk is that they simply stagnate, or always take the ultra safe option. This is the equivalent of a baby holding onto the sofa when learning to walk. There is progress being made, but it will never be life-changing and could potentially impede the growth of your company. By empowering your staff to take considered risks, and not criticizing them when they make the inevitable mistakes, you will encourage both their development and your profit margins.


2. Mistakes Can Be Analyzed and Acted Upon

Mistakes are often seen as a negative within the business world, but they can just as easily be viewed in a positive light. Whenever a mistake is made, rather than criticizing and undermining confidence, take this opportunity to learn from the error and improve procedures going forward. As Einstein said, “a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”


3. Others Can Learn From Your Mistakes

When anyone makes a mistake and then publicly owns up to it, everyone else in the company can benefit. If we take this example outside of the business sector: a convicted criminal is in a much better position to try and convert a young person from a life of crime, rather than someone who has never been in trouble, because they can better explain their mistakes and the subsequent consequences. Because they have been to prison and are admitting their mistakes, their words and opinions hold much more weight. When other members of the staff see that mistakes are not punished, it will inspire them and encourage closer teamwork.


For those managers reading this article who struggle to let go, the advice above is not to abandon major aspects of management, but rather to put in place certain safeguards. For instance, it is perfectly acceptable to make a mistake for the first time, but repeating that mistake a second or third time is not acceptable.

A great leader allows their staff to make mistakes, but equally a great employee will learn from their mistakes, admit them, repair the damage caused, and then ensure that the same mistakes do not happen again.

Everyone makes mistakes; it is a part of life. The issue is not the mistake, but rather how you deal with it, either as a leader or an employee.

Learn how risk and uncertainty affect your business.