Celebrate Mistakes

October 25, 2012 / Comments (0)

IgniteSydney presentation I gave recently…

Leader definition according to Dictionary.com – a person or thing that leads; a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group.

Leader definition according to Oxford Dictionary – the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country; the person or team that is winning a sporting competition at a particular time; an organization or company that is the most advanced or successful in a particular area.

Today we redefine Leadership. Leadership is not exclusively related to the work environment. Leadership is about being in our element, operating from our essence. I have real life examples to make the point in a work environment that equally applies to all walks of life. The example is a real organisation in decline and in real trouble. In administration and having lost six hundred thousand dollars. I will later show you how Leadership utilising this new definition, has impacted this organisation.

We are all born natural leaders. But leadership is often educated out of us in our early days to conform to normality, through fear of mistakes.

We celebrate mistakes!

In this organisation the Staff to choose their CEO. I am that CEO. I, in turn nominated the customer as our CEO and delegated myself as his assistant. We instituted weekly meetings where the team was encouraged to bring their mistake to the table. If people did not, we assumed that they were not trying hard enough. Management is about control and as a result driven by fear of failure. Without risk, there is no growth and risk brings fear of mistakes. It is our responsibility as leaders to remove fear of mistakes as that’s where the gold lies. Be-it at home or at the workplace, where there is fear of making mistakes, growth and creativity are greatly hampered. As a child, every fall was a step closer to our first step. The light bulb might never have been invented if it wasn’t for thousands of mistakes.

“You mean I can do what I want, when I work for your company.” Yes, this is your company. You turn-up when you want to and approach your role in the way that feels best for you. If the customer is satisfied, then so are we! “Really??? But when I expressed myself freely as a young child, I was told to grow-up and stop being silly!!!”

Such is the rigorous and pervasive normalisation training from our early days in in our culture generally, that fear, whilst undesirable, feels comfortable (the comfort of the known) where-as true freedom of expression is difficult and challenging. Happiness at home and at work relates more to the freedom of self-expression than it relates to how much we earn. Fear marginalises us. It makes us feel like frauds among peers. Operating from our essence, without fear of failure makes us Leaders. Leaders are creative and motivate others to operate from their core and their essence. They remove barriers of fear and shame. They motivate by respecting the individual for their individuality rather than rail-roading them into conformity of standards, hierarchy, roles and KPIs.

Mums can be Leaders. Artists can be leaders. Receptionists can be Leaders. Leaders are not hierarchically or financially motivated. Managers are! Yet, in my experience, the hardest thing is for people to trust that they are allowed to make mistakes and that they are allowed to “be themselves”! That’s the real test. I was fortunate to work closely with Stan Shih (founder of Acer Computer). He believed that mistakes are the cost of education and losses applied to our training budget. Stan’s company became the 3rd largest global PC manufacturer. When we set-out to be the best of who we are, doing what we believe not for financial or hierarchical advancement, as Steve Jobs showed, we end-up changing the world and receiving great financial reward.

So, operating from our Essence, is the best way to look after the board and the shareholders. We, met our customers and asked them many questions about us. We turned rhetoric and clichés into actions, marketed less, established customer-centric internal vision, eliminate non-profitable products, allowed the organisation to self realign behind the new vision, did not replace sales staff that left, removed the Sales Department, re-distributed the amount traditionally allocated to sales commissions into incentives for all. Most suppliers abandoned us. This had a significant impact on our Vision and had to choose a new, more profitable and sustainable direction. Gave 40% of company to staff and shared it equally between us.

We got the team to have more fun, flexible working hours, Foosball at office, Go carting & Karaoke nights, hours/days off without impacting leave entitlements, worked smarter not harder, Eliminate manual processes, open space environment and more. 14 staff spend less time at work, produced more than 29 did, revenues continued to slide! Profitability went up SIGNIFICANTLY, finishing 2011/12 with six hundred thousand dollar profit (a one point two million dollar turn-around) and on track to a record two point six million in 2012/13.

Last modified: April 12, 2018

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