We are all familiar with tricky conversations in our organisations - the ones you put off for as long as possible or perhaps never have at all. But suppose you could handle these conversations in the best way imaginable, what difference would that make?
What difference would it make it to you, to your team and to your organisation? Each conversation has an impact on your ultimate results, as there is an inevitable logical thread between you, your team and your organisation’s performance.
The activity ran smoothly and the participants raced back to their chairs to make notes. ‘What were those questions we just asked?’, they demanded. ‘What do you remember them to be?’, I parried - still in facilitator mode.
It so happened that my questions were all flavoured with a solutions focus. That’s because SF is the way that I think, even though in terms of the format we were learning the wording of the questions was irrelevant...
Pointing out people’s mistakes is supposed to be conducive to learning, and is a mainstay of traditional education systems.
Instead, we can treat the errors lightly or gently; as an opportunity to have another go, to find a more accurate way of getting the problem solved, the phrase translated, or the facts right.
The danger of these myths is that they encourage mistakes in the wrong contexts. And they blind us to the infinitely greater learning from getting things right. So let's learn to learn from success and getting things right.
1. Keep things in proportion, appropriate to the stakes. If the mistakes don’t much matter, then don’t give them excessive psychological weight. It’s a good idea to reduce needless perfectionism.
2. In a learning environment, treat mistakes lightly as a signal to have another go at succeeding or progressing. It's why we invest in simulators.
3. If you make mistakes in your organisation, it's worth saying sorry, as that builds trust and reduces excessive fear of making mistakes. It's most unfortunate, for example, that politicians cannot admit to making mistakes.
4. Value feedback - your own and other's useful stories. That sets you up to make use of feedback for fast adaptation. It’s a great improvisational and learning skill to notice how we are doing in relation to what we are aiming to do. Correct your course by spotting and quickly dealing with errors.
5. Learn from other people's mistakes - generally a list of tempting moves to avoid saves time and pain, and gets you more quickly to the ‘Success Stack’, so you can learn from what your mentor ultimately got right.
Mistakes are events you would rather have not happened (at least at the time), because the intention was to do something different, and the immediate consequence is most often unfavourable.
I like this story of a crisis handled by Hans Zeinhofer, who I met at a conference where delegates were discussing the application of solutions-focused ideas in organisations.
In a brilliant introduction to his presentation on Microanalysis, Harry Korman told his audience, “Give me feedback or I die. When I look at you I need you to nod.”