President Theodore Roosevelt

With Real Performance Comes Real Failure

In a previous post, we spoke about being accountable. It takes courage for individuals and teams to take accountability in their own hands and to move forward in breath taking ways toward improving results. Often the hard wiring of the organizations has created a culture where people don’t want to “get their hands slapped” so instead, they simply play it safe. “Just tell me what you want to do” is the most toxic statement in any organization. But it’s a reflection that people are fearful of management reaction. So they simply do what they are told. In truth, that path never leads to excellence.

We admire Theodore Roosevelt’s Dare Greatly quote, where “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” But day-to-day life is about one’s paycheck, and seldom is the individual who dares to step out and take real risk to improve performance. Thus they seldom neither truly know “great enthusiasm” or “the great devotions” spoken of by Teddy. That “worthy cause” is avoided because the organization offers no cover in the “triumph of high achievement.”

President Theodore Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt

What is needed is an organization that not only encourages risk, but rewards it. Consider some of the statements Ed Catmull made in his book, Creativity Inc., regarding that kind of environment:

  • “It’s not the leader/manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the leader/manager’s job to make sure it is safe for others to take them.”
  • “Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all; it is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”
  • “Trust doesn’t mean that you trust someone won’t screw up—it means you trust them even when they do screw up.”
  • “The desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal—it leads to measuring people by their mistakes they make rather than by their ability to solve problems.”
  • “Trust doesn’t mean that you trust someone won’t screw up—it means you trust them even when they do screw up.”

If you expect real performance, expect real failure. The two go hand-in-hand.

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