Most companies celebrate the winners and the wins. This means the majority of workplaces tolerate a culture where people WHO WORK make mistakes, and people who don’t work – get promoted.
The people who DO, will slowly leave your company, and these are hard to find and maintain, but they are also the ones that make everything work. These are the innovators, the creatives, the ones that have the biggest contribution to your company’s success.
Working with the DO-ers is not easy – they have high ownership, are stubborn, and need to believe in what you are doing. But it’s definitely worth the effort.
If you want to change or improve your company’s culture to promote a culture of doers, you have to celebrate and promote the people who DO and make mistakes. You should embrace failure as a company and guess what, it all starts at the top.
I know this embracing failure thing can be easily misunderstood, and that people can use it to do sloppy work, make mistakes on purpose, and then brag about them in meetings. I’m here to tell you that this is not going to happen. We’re just not built like that.
What will happen is that you will be able to see a lot faster what doesn’t work and improve the process. You will innovate and adapt at record speed.
Here are some of my tips on how to promote a culture of DOERS.
#1 Improve your tolerance to failure
It all starts with you, the leader. If at the first mistake that is reported to you, you start screaming or have a negative attitude, it all stops there. You will only hear the good news from that point on, and by the time the bad news gets to you, it might be from a client, partner, or too late.
At Voxa, the biggest audiobook app in Romania, valued at €6.5M, a company that I co-founded and built from scratch, we got to a point where we celebrated bad news, and had fun about it. We also reacted on time, professionally, and with a great attitude.
I remember one time we had a challenge with a client reporting a bug while listening to an audiobook and it got to me, the CEO. I asked the client if I could personally read the audiobook, right there on the phone, as compensation for the book not working.
We laughed and the client went on to give us a 5-star rating. People from the team have seen my attitude towards bad news and setbacks and adopted a relaxed, positive attitude when dealing with the customers’ complaints from then on. Now, Voxa has a high rating on both Android and IOS.
Another example is I Love Failure, another events company that I founded. We had a big, sold-out event, and the moderator told me one hour before the opening that he was not coming.
My reaction was: “Look, it’s a good thing, we were over capacity anyway”. Nobody even noticed that he was not there and things went fine. An important comeback to this setback was to not stress the team who was already dealing with a sold-out event and the challenges that go with that.
Redefine failure in your company
Start asking for failures in meetings, celebrate them, and be disappointed only if nothing happened. Of course, take steps to fix what needs to be fixed, but with a great attitude.
Setbacks happen whether you want them or not, and as your company grows, so will the setbacks. If you and your team can’t wait to hear about them, then you have a culture where people feel free to try, to innovate.
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Catalin Mester is a Bucharest-based tech startup founder, known for co-founding the audiobook company Voxa. He has a background as a programmer and is now building a new project, the I Love Failure series of events.