Create A Culture That Doesn’t Fear Failure

JP George

A fear of failure could be holding back your business.

If the people on your team are worrying about being ridiculed or blamed for independent creativity or the downfall of an entire project, they are likely to hold back their ideas and stick to completing projects in the same way over and over again. In comparison, people who work in an office culture with no fear of failure feel free to bounce ideas around, which helps generate new practices, keep up with the times, push projects along, and can “wow” customers with innovation.

Changing the way your office works won’t happen overnight, but these five tips could begin to implement positive changes to help steer your team toward a working environment that is good for the staff and good for the business.

1. Recognize and reward

Employee recognition is the key to not fearing failure. When an employee or team member goes above and beyond; make sure they know that their hard work is appreciated and that an efficient system for providing employee recognition awards is in place. Even small things like suggesting a new way to carry out a particular process should be celebrated. If an employee, colleague, or team member has a suggestion that isn’t quite on-point, find the positive; for example, you might say, “You’re on the right lines, your idea will help speed the process up, but…” Always make sure to offer positive feedback first, then mention the thing that needs changing, and end with encouragement: “Once that’s ironed out, we can implement this — great work!”

2. Adopt a team mentality

Seems straightforward and fairly obvious for a first step, but so many companies do not know how to really generate a feeling of teamwork and inclusivity, and instead put up a front of “togetherness” while retaining the bad practices that divide a workforce. Start by calling a team meeting and setting some ground rules together. Yes, it’s a basic ice-breaking activity in almost all training sessions, but it also helps each person to display respect and hear the opinions of other members of the group. Suggest from the start that the team use “we” rather than individual pronouns when discussing projects, as it helps to dispel blame culture and reminds each person that they are all responsible for any successes and downfalls of the team.

3. Say “yes” more

When staff members and colleagues approach you with ideas and innovation, are you more likely to think “straying from the status quo is dangerous,” or are you willing to hear the person out and let their creative juices flow? Even if the first suggestion they offer is horrible, try not to say “no” outright or make the person feel bad for sharing. Try to find a way in which their idea can be incorporated, even if it has to be altered to fit the project. Saying “yes” to the inspiration and thoughts generated by staff and colleagues means that they will be likely to offer more ideas in the future, and without that openness, you might miss the next great innovation in your industry.

4. Blame less

Similarly, try to incorporate policies that encourage employee recognition rather than shame for sharing concepts. If failure does occur, do not publicly belittle the person deemed responsible, even in jest. This creates tension within the office or team and can make the person receiving the blame less likely to contribute in the future, and may even affect their personal well-being. Instead of blaming and shaming, discuss what went wrong as a group, and try to enforce the group mentality of “we could have done…” rather than “I/they/she/he did…”

5. Look for the positives

If, for any reason, your team does experience failure—and you should, otherwise you’re just not aiming high enough—try to see the positives, and discuss the issue as a group — not in cliques of us vs. them, but together discuss what the group could have done better. If a majority insist on blaming one or two people, move onto analyzing how communication channels could be opened up and ask members how inclusivity could be improved. After all, if only a few people are responsible for a project failing, the responsibility was obviously not being shared in an equal manner while the project was underway. There are positives to every situation, even if it is just the ability to improve your team dynamic.

The changes won’t happen immediately, but once the systems are in place and your staff, colleagues, and team members start to understand the goals within both the office and working environment as a whole, your employees’ creativity should start flowing and you will start hearing new suggestions regularly. Even if some don’t work well, remember to recognize employees and enjoy the rewards of your newly open and trusting workforce.

Want more employee engagement tips? See Boost Productivity With These 4 Brain Breaks.


About JP George

JP George grew up in a small town in Washington. After receiving a Master's degree in Public Relations, JP has worked in a variety of positions, from agencies to corporations all across the globe. Experience has made JP an expert in topics relating to leadership, talent management, and organizational business.