The Leader's Safety Net

Posted by Siobhan Hitchmough

Nobody is right all the time.  Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”  For important business decisions, the consequences of a major mistake can be costly.  A leader needs to form a safety net by encouraging colleagues to point out mistakes early on.

This is not easy.  Have you seen an insecure or hot-tempered authority figure get annoyed when challenged?  So has everybody else, and this makes people less likely to risk their boss’ wrath by speaking up.  Furthermore, pressure to go along with the group can make it hard for people to speak up, even when they’re obviously right.

What can you do to encourage a culture where people will feel comfortable speaking up?
– Set an example by regularly asking hard questions.
– Ask people what they think, especially when they look uneasy.
– Thank people when they speak up, even if you disagree.
– Take some breaks between having discussions and making decisions.  This will give people time to think and put their objections into words.
– Set up an anonymous suggestion box.
– Mention times when you have changed your mind or been mistaken.  You will gain more respect by showing your honesty and open-mindedness than by pretending to be infallible.

It takes a certain strength of mind – humility – to truly appreciate criticism.  This strength can’t be faked, but it can be trained.  Start forming your safety net now by talking to your colleagues and sharing this article.

Siobhan Hitchmough

About Siobhan Hitchmough

Siobhan Hitchmough is a customer advocate, community manager and part-time tutorial wrangler. When she's not seeking out new challenges she leads the community and support team at inFlow Inventory.

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