Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Right To Screw Up

I was browsing my LinkedIn account (click here to visit) and I came across a discussion topic in one of the groups asking how did I get to where I am today. Well, in 1977 in Jordan, mentoring was not a common thing nor was career path development. I was hard working and lucky, what else did you guys expect.

I was lucky in the sense, I joined at the time Royal Jordanian was expanding and new organisational functions and structures were being put in place. Another aspect, I had a boss who gave me space to grow and most importantly to make mistakes, and I took advantage of that.
I made mistakes nothing catastrophic but I made mistakes in an era when celebrating failures and mistakes was not the norm. I never covered up a mistake but always learnt from one.

In a way, the boss acted as a mentor, not in the traditional sense but rather by taking the time to talk to me and guide me, beyond what was normally required. He used to say, expand the envelope until you step on someone's toes and they holler; stop and back off; then start again until you get to where you want. Advice that I always used.

Later in my career, in all my subsequent jobs, I had, and in some cases created, the space for me and others to make mistake. I enjoyed mentoring younger people. It was never through a formal program but something I felt I needed to do, as a pay back to the opportunities that life gave me.

The ability to make mistakes is what drives creativity, innovation and the ability to experiment without fearing for your job. Some would think it is a privilege that a workplace bestows, I beg to differ. It is a right of an employee to be allowed to make mistakes without fear or retribution and it is the job of a good boss to create that space so mistakes do not get out of hand.

Mistakes are committed by those who extend themselves on the job and are willing to seek positive change and strive for the next step and excellence.

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