I made a comment in there about how it was super-important to make regular forgiveness a cornerstone of your management technique.
Forgiveness is so important because it allows your people to take calculated risks, with the knowledge that they can make mistakes that will be forgiven.
Like how brakes on a car allow you to go faster, forgiveness of error allows people to take larger risks, to go faster.
It’s also similar the to risk/reward tradeoffs that people make while investing. If you can’t forgive yourself for the large drawdown, you will never make the large returns.
So, these are nice words, but how do you do this?
First, I want to focus on one of the words I wrote above: ‘regular’. Specifically, ‘regular forgiveness’.
I first learned this from my undergrad thesis supervisor. Every single meeting we had, no matter how much I had accomplished since the last meeting, he would always talk about where we were right now, and what the next step was. It felt like a safe space, where I was not going to be judged, and I’ve tried to bring this to all of my teams since.
Fundamentally, people worry about being embarrassed and being judged, by their manager, by their peers, or people that they don’t even know.
Daily standups can help you remind your team that they everything is okay on a daily basis. Think about it. That regular contact is telling your entire team not just that they’re important, but also telling them that you know what they’re doing, and you approve. It gives them that solid floor underneath them that they can jump from every day, knowing that you and your whole team are waiting and willing to catch them tomorrow if they fall.
You can do this today, with your daily standup, or your weekly meeting. “Where are we right now? What is our next step?” It might take a while for people to unwind, but if you give them time, they will see that you mean it. It is powerful once it works.
The fear of being judged by people you don’t know is the most difficult to fix with this method. You can help someone understand that you will not judge them for things they do, and it’s somewhat more difficult (but totally doable) to create and reinforce that culture at your site, but it’s much more difficult to convince someone that they person that they’ve never met, perhaps on the other side of the world, won’t judge them for asking a stupid question or wasting their time.
All you can really do for this is to make a local culture of acceptance and non-judgement, so that people at least have a safe space to jump off from to take their risks.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention gender and cultural issues. I’m not enough of an expert on either of these to really comment in depth, but all of the above are often more difficult (sometimes much more difficult) for those who are not part of the dominant power group in a society.
As a general rule, think about how tense you get when asking your boss about something. Now, what if that was your boss’s boss? Now think about for each type of privilege that you don’t have, you add one level of hierarchy and tension.
So, for you, asking your boss is like, well, asking your boss. But for your female co-worker, asking her boss might be as difficult as you asking your boss’s boss.
This is why it is so important to make your organization’s culture as accepting and non-judgemental and as forgiving as possible, because you never know how much more difficult it is for the person sitting next to you to do the things that you might do every day.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
I’m not actually sure which of these is a stronger fear.