Encourage mistakes

John Wooden at a ceremony on Oct. 14, the coac...

John Wooden at a ceremony on Oct. 14, the coach’s 96th birthday, to name the Reseda post office after the sports legend and long-time San Fernando Valley resident. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My last post, Coaching New Team Members https://jvearle.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/coaching-new-team-members/, got me thinking about mistakes and it reminded me of this quote from one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time.  John Wooden, who coached UCLA to ten national championships, once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.  I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

Wooden was an amazing coach and leader.  One of the reasons his teams had great success is that he encouraged creativity and initiative.  He realized the value of giving team members the freedom to make their own decisions during the game and to adjust to the actions of their opponents.  And although he knew that an environment that promoted creativity might lead to more mistakes, the mistakes didn’t bother him.  In fact, he encouraged mistakes.  Wooden knew that for teams to succeed, they must set high goals and then take chances to achieve them.  The risk is more mistakes.  But, remember, a doer makes mistakes.

When you get to work on Monday, I’m sure it won’t be long before you find a mistake by one of your team members.  Before you chastise or criticize them, take a moment to think about John Wooden.  And remember that mistakes by your team members often mean that they are doing things, they are striving to move forward and to move the organization toward its vision.  Many of us look at mistakes as a negative.  If we change our thinking and view mistakes as a positive, as an indicator that our teams are attempting to achieve results, we’ll be more tolerant of mistakes, we’ll encourage risk-taking, and we’ll build creative and innovative teams.  So encourage mistakes and even make some mistkes mistakes of your own as well!

Thanks for reading,

Ways to follow Dr. Jim Earle:
Twitter – @jvearle
Blog – http://www.jvearle.wordpress.com
Facebook – JVEarleConsulting
Book – 100 Yards of Success: Leadership Lessons from College Football,


2 thoughts on “Encourage mistakes

  1. Thanks, Jim. Excellent point. Many management teams are so process and time-line driven, that mistakes are not optional. And when they do occur, are often held up as an example of how “not to do something,” instead of using the experience for learning or encouragement. It should be an accepted standard for all dynamic organizations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s