The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you embrace imperfection as part of professional development? is by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.
I believe that as a CEO, entrepreneur, or manager, embracing imperfection is necessary to growing a successful organization. At PureWow, we never get mad at making a mistake. We understand that our company is made up of people, not machines, and that human error is going to happen. Of course, when it comes to integrity, character, or trust — you can’t tolerate any breach, but with product errors, imperfection can actually help lead to perfection.
Create a human organization
By embracing imperfection, you humanize your employees. Equally important, you also humanize yourself. If your employees know that they will not be penalized for innocuous errors, then you have planted the seed towards open collaboration. That is why I never hesitate to talk about anything with my employees. For instance, if you want to tell me about your personal life, I’m all ears. Obviously there are things that are inappropriate, but if someone wants to know how my new baby is doing, I’m more than happy to share. CEOs are humans too, and need to build relationships with their employees so they don’t fear sharing mistakes with them.
Do it yourself (DIY)
At PureWow, we encourage people to do things on their own; take the bull by the horns. Give it your best effort first, and then we’ll assess the rest. I’d almost rather a team member do something outright wrong than do a mediocre job and float under the radar. Mistakes can always be corrected. We also encourage open feedback and dialogue. Share praise when its been earned, but also don’t be afraid to highlight mistakes so others can learn from them. Because there is nothing worse than making the same mistake twice.
Don’t be fearful of conflict
Conflict is good — as long as it’s done in a professional way. You want people to disagree, and bring out the best in each other. In fact, I frequently disagree with my managers, but when we come together over a disagreement we actually find an even better solution. When you have a culture that embraces healthy conflict, mistakes are equally encouraged. Your employees aren’t afraid to give things a try because they know at very worst their mistake will open a discourse, which is never a bad thing.
Don’t be a super chicken
In one of my favorite TED Talks, Margaret Heffernan talks about an experiment in which chickens were bred for their most desirable qualities to make “Super Chickens.” They should have been a perfect brood, but instead they all killed each other. In the same respect, you don’t want each and every employee to be of a certain “perfect” mold, successful organizations need a variety of people who have different abilities and shortcomings. An employees imperfections in one role may indicate they would make an excellent fit for a different position. If you allow for your employees to be comfortable with failing — and trying new things — it will put them on the right track to the position in which they will yield their very best product.