Learning from Mistakes in a COVID Context

High performing teams engage in continuous learning. Yet learning from mistakes is one of the greatest skill gaps in leadership teams – according to a very recent poll.

In high performing environments, mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth, creativity and innovation. In less high performing environments, mistakes can be seen as failure and, even worse, personalised.

Cora Lynn Heimer Rathbone

High performance environments/cultures nurture learning by encouraging feedback (positive as well as constructive), confrontation of conflict, tough conversations, and learning from each other. The mantra is “fail fast, fail often” and learn!

Such cultures, learning cultures, attract people with growth (not fixed) mindsets. In these cultures, people and teams are stretched to their limits and supported in that space so they flourish and flow. Blame for mistakes is replaced by feedback and “psychologically safe” learning conversations to better succeed and excel.

Building on the learning value of feedback:

  1. Three questions for encouraging feedback and promoting continuous learning: (1) What are we doing well? (2) What do we need to do better? (3) What do we need to start/stop doing?
  2. People remember negative/constructive feedback more than positive feedback. Yet people need to know what they are doing well, not just what they could do better. Whether or not the correct balance between positive and negative feedback is 3:1 (the “Losada ratio”), we know that people flourish in environments where they are affirmed more than corrected. The neurosciences also assert that positive feedback encourages new “pathways” whilst negative /corrective feedback causes people to repeat the very behaviours they wish to correct.

If you do only one thing to learn more from mistakes and create a learning environment, give feedback more regularly to others, and request feedback from others in return. Give positive as well as constructive feedback, in a ratio greater that 3:1, to BOOST people’s grounded confidence to do new and greater things, to BOOST people’s ability to learn from mistakes.