Leaders must create and sustain an environment where everyone feels safe to trust and perform. One of the most important ways to do this is to have a “safe to fail” culture.

There’s no progress, achievement, or innovation without mistakes. Mistakes are normal, natural, expected, and predictable.  We all make them.  The team has to feel free to fail, fail up, and fail forward. It’s how we learn, improve, and innovate.

One of Florida’s best CEOs Joe York would share leadership lessons with my students – all of them are current and future executives, managers, supervisors, and professionals. He would always note that he makes mistakes to the positive reaction of students. When I am mentoring, I often work into the conversation that I make plenty of mistakes.

You want the team to learn, grow, and innovate.  You do not want employees to spend their limited and valuable time and energy in defensive thinking and behaviors or avoiding solving problems for fear of the risk.  You never want employees hiding problems out of fear.  Everyone should know it is best to immediately share less than positive news.

We always want to identify the causes of mistakes to remedy not repeat.  All employee actions generally fall into three categories: can’t, don’t and won’t.

Can’t is a lack of capacity to successfully complete the required task.  Can’t is usually solved with training, coaching, and mentoring.  It could also involve removing obstacles such as a change in policies and procedures or supplying support like technology, equipment, or resources.

Don’t occurs when the employee knew the policy but did not follow it a second time.  It is key to learn their thinking and understand why they did what they did and how to best address it.  They should understand the rationale for the policy or procedure.  They must know there will be consequences if this behavior continues.  Start positive and end positive in your conversation.

Won’t is the employee repeatedly refuses to adhere to the culture, policies, and expected performance.  Intentional and chronic behavior means the employee is a poor fit for the culture and team.  They should seek employment with an organization which is a good match for their thinking and behavior.

Failure to address a problem such as behavior which violates policies means it will be repeated by that employee and replicated by others.  If it is a bad policy, then the policy needs to be changed.

The best leaders are open and honest about themselves. Successful leaders admit the truth – we all make mistakes. It is how we learn and grow from them. If you are doing and deciding, you are making mistakes. If you are learning from them and doing better, you are succeeding.