Optical Business Success 186
Tasty, weekly nuggets of random goodness; observations, musings, tips, stories, and science hand-picked to help you achieve success in your life and independent optical business.
In school we learn that mistakes are bad, and we are punished for making them. Yet, if you look at the way humans are designed to learn, we learn by making mistakes. We learn to walk by falling down. If we never fell down, we would never walk.
― Robert Kiyosaki
The Game of Blame is Actually Quite Lame
If you followed OBS for any length of time, you’re likely aware that I am a bit of a contrarian thinker. I enjoy trying to view things from uncommon perspectives. Earlier this week I was asked a question that grabbed my attention for that reason. Consequently, I couldn’t resist the temptation to riff on it this week. If you were expecting Part 2 of the Framework for Optical Success, hang tight, it’s on the way.
In a nutshell, the question posed to me was, “How do you get your staff to own up to their mistakes as opposed to blaming others or coming up with excuses?”
Now, many of us—if not all of us to some degree—have a natural tendency to go on the defensive when confronted with mistakes we’ve made. Our ego steps in and wants to come up with reasons (excuses) for the mistake or place the blame somewhere else. We want to avoid looking bad or appearing incompetent in front of others. However, if that tendency is too strong, not only can it get in the way of a number of positive learning outcomes, it can also have negative consequences for us and those around us.
If you’ve worked at, say, more than two places in your life, you’ve probably experienced a workplace culture where managers and co-workers blame each other, deflect, or make excuses for their mistakes. If so, chances are it wasn’t a very happy place to work. The “blame game” or unwillingness to take responsibility tends to be infectious, ultimately forcing everyone into a perpetual state of “CYA.” When this spreads in a group, far more energy tends to get put into “not being at fault” rather than actually fixing problems, learning from mistakes, and even doing the job at hand.
If this happens in a group you lead, it can seriously impact the effectiveness and growth you want from both individuals on your team and the organization as a whole. Research shows that people who blame others lose status, learn less, and perform worse compared to their peers who don’t. The same applies to organizations. Groups with a culture of blame have a serious disadvantage when it comes to teamwork, creativity, learning, innovation, and productivity. Ultimately, the toxicity created in these organizations becomes evident in the service provided to customers potentially affecting the bottom line.
The question posed to me (by someone almost certainly not in that situation) went on to ask, “How do you encourage or incentivize the behavior of taking responsibility for mistakes in an organization without encouraging the mistakes themselves?”
The answer is, “You don’t.”
This is essentially a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too and then blaming your party guests when the cake is gone… or something like that.
Analogies were never my strong suit.
Taking a step back, we need to recognize that, in general, mistakes are not something that need to be avoided at all costs. In fact, mistakes are opportunities for growth, learning, and improvement. Mistakes can be an indicator that people are trying and growing. In fact, if your staff isn’t making mistakes, they probably aren’t doing much in the way of improving themselves or the organization.
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
― Albert Einstein
Yes, mistakes can be costly and careless mistakes in particular can be avoided (more on that in a minute), but often, the opportunity for long-term benefit provided by a given mistake in both the individual and the organization can far outweigh the short-term cost, if the culture of the organization is such that learning and growth is valued and emphasized.
Outward facing mistakes can even be used an opportunity to demonstrate the true mettle and character of an organization sometimes to greater benefit than had the mistake never been made.
So, it’s not the mistakes themselves that need to be avoided, but mistakes without benefit.
Now, if you happen to find that your staff members are making too many careless mistakes or repeating the same mistakes over and over, guess what? You need to take a look in the mirror. The responsibility is yours and can likely be attributed to one of these problems:
- Your haven’t ensured your staff are sufficiently trained.
- You aren’t clear enough in your expectations.
- You haven’t adequately “sold” the team on the mission or vision of the group.
- You have the wrong people on the team or in the wrong position(s).
Did you just feel a twinge of “yeah, but…”?
There’s that pesky ego.
Remember, even as you see these unnecessary mistakes made by your team, they present an opportunity for you to learn and grow as leader, to help your team members grow as individuals, and to improve your organization as a whole.
As the leader you need to recognize that you are ultimately responsible for all the mistakes made by both you and your team. You set the example by owning the responsibility for those mistakes and direct the culture by placing the emphasis on learning and growth.
A few years back, it became trendy to “celebrate failure” particularly at innovative tech start-ups. And while posters emblazoned with “Fail forward fast” and Champaign celebrations of screw-ups may be a tad over-zealous for an eyecare practice, a more measured approach could be considered to help build a culture of learning from mistakes. For example: you might give everyone (leaders included) the opportunity to share mistakes they’ve made over the last week or month during a staff meeting. Have them emphasize the lessons learned from the mistakes. Then, reward the people/person (even with only applause) for the most “valuable” mistake because they’ve not only experienced personal growth but they’ve contributed to the growth of your entire team while having the courage admit to being human.
Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities. It’s a magnet for enemies and errors.
― Ryan Holiday
Optician Video of The Week: High Curves and Step Bevels
What are the advantages of using the high curve and step bevel features when edging lenses? We take a look at these features on the Santinelli LEXCE Trend 8.
Through our OpticianWorks free videos, Laramy-K Optical is making every effort to provide better and more accessible (and yes, even free) education for opticians, helping independents everywhere deliver a better optical experience. But we’re only able to do it with your support.
You can help keep it going in two ways:
Purchase a paid membership to OpticianWorks.com for you or staff, to access the best in online optician training (The videos are only a small portion).
Or, even better, open a Laramy-K Optical lab account for the very best in independent lab work and we'll throw in the OpticianWorks memberships for your entire staff for free! Your customers and your staff will thank you!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of Optical Business Success. Please share with anyone you think might benefit from it. If someone shared it with you and you would like to receive future updates, join over 15,000 optical professionals and sign up here. https://www.laramyk.com/optical-retail-success/
Until next time, be kind and never stop learning!