Leaders everywhere are imploring their teams to step up and make decisions. Rather than wait for instructions, “responsibility” has been redefined: It now means taking more decisions into your own hands and taking actions.


This means there are going to be more mistakes. Can you live with that?


There’s an old saying: We need to make mistakes faster. This, of course, is designed to underscore the idea of accelerating continuous improvement. But the image of teammates dancing through the day with little concern for mistakes is enough to drive any manager mad.


A new friend, Robert, recently said to his team, “I’ve always struggled with the saying ‘It’s okay to make mistakes.’ Mistakes should never be our goal.” What makes Robert effective is that he doesn’t stop there. Rather, he takes the extra step of gaining alignment with his team on what are – and are not – acceptable risks.


“If you had $1 in your pocket, and by betting it, you had a 99% chance you could make $100 – would that be a safe risk you would take?”  (Most people would say yes.)


Robert continues, “If you had $1, and by betting it, you had a 99% chance you would lose that dollar – would that be a safe risk?”


Robert went on to tell his team, “It’s rarely that black and white, yet the lesson still applies. When risks are well thought out and the chances are good that the action will deliver a great return, those are risks we should take – and mistakes we can live with if it doesn’t work out.”


How does your team define appropriate risk-taking? This week, help those around you move from the nebulous rhetoric of ‘We need to take more risks!’ by helping them determine what that looks like.




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