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Why this CEO encourages failure in the workplace

June 2, 2015, 11:00 AM UTC

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 keep your best employees?” is by Amy Errett, CEO and co-founder of Madison Reed.

There are few things more vital to a company’s success than the quality of its employees. Amazing talent can lift a business to new heights or rescue it from flat-lining growth. There will always be job opportunities for great leaders, collaborators, and innovators, which is why finding–and retaining–top talent is so crucial for all businesses, regardless of industry. My experience in venture capital and as co-founder and CEO of Madison Reed has taught me that when it comes to keeping your best employees, perfection is the enemy of growth. De-emphasizing perfection will encourage your employees to work hard, and grow loyal to your company.

Challenging and incentivizing employees to succeed is a tried and true way to grow a company. But I’ve found it’s important to set aside perfection when setting goals. We would all like our employees to be perfect, but everyone is susceptible to making mistakes–even the best employees. Too much criticism can discourage employees, and create an adversarial atmosphere. If your employees view you as an obstacle, they’re much more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere.

So when an employee makes a mistake, it isn’t a time to chide or punish, but rather an opportunity to learn, grow, and move forward. Some mistakes don’t need to be repeated individually; we can all learn collectively from a single mistake and leverage each other’s experience. Obviously every mistake comes with a short-term setback. While these setbacks may be impossible to ignore, try not to linger on them. Focusing on an employee’s mistakes will only make them increasingly afraid of failure and less likely to take the necessary risks to do truly outstanding work.

It’s also important that your employees can express concerns and fears about what they’re doing. Being receptive doesn’t necessarily mean shaping performance goals around your employees’ concerns, but it will help you encourage them to do their best and eliminate surprises during performance reviews. More importantly, listening to an employee’s concerns may be one of the easiest ways to help he or she overcome them. This way, as they develop professionally, they’ll likely see value in their employer.

Striving for perfection only sets up your employees to fail and become fearful of taking risks, trying new things, and pushing the boundaries that take their work from acceptable to exceptional. So embrace their failures. This management philosophy will not only make your employees more confident and productive, but more loyal as well. And that’s a winning situation for everyone involved.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: How do you keep your best employees?

Sarah Kauss: Why a pay bump isn’t the answer to employee happiness by Sarah Kauss, CEO and founder of S’well.

The one perk that will guarantee employee happiness by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.

The secret to holding on to your best employees by Amit Srivastav, president of Infinite.

3 ways to prevent your employees from quitting by Niraj Shah, CEO of Wayfair.