I honestly feel that if you want to build a creative and innovative (ghastly word–sorry) team, you simply have no option but to figure out how to turn failure into a positive learning experience rather than something the thought of which inspires extreme caution in your team.

There have actually been a few situations on recent projects I’ve been involved in, where I’m actually pleased that we failed publicly in front of our clients, in the way we did. By holding a retrospective, and thinking about what the cause of the problem was, we’ve actually strengthened a couple of really important parts of our workflow, which will make us far stronger going forwards.

My biggest takeaway has been that mistakes happen: they’re never as bad as they seem, and reacting in a negative way, never helps.

Sometimes I think we can aim too high, for that ‘perfect’, flawless project, all the way from start to finish.

I’m not saying we should throw these high-standards out of the window, but if you’re working with a client, you’ve got to appeciate that they’re human too. An email can go missing; a message can be misinterpreted; a task can be forgotten. When it happens on the other side of the table, it’s not to say that you’re entirely pleased about it, but you inevitably put a minor slip down to a case of “oh, they must have had something stressful going on and missed that”, rather than taking it as a damning indictment of their incompetence–so why is it so easy to forget to do this with our own teams?

I think it’s worth reminding yourself of this the next time one of your team fails on something. I definitely try to, force myself to keep my own response in check and focus on solutions, not on blame, or, even worse, on making my team feel belittled just so that I can get that ‘hero’ aura when by saving the day. In the real world, heroes suck.

The best thing I’ve done recently has been to hold a retrospective after every ‘failure’. By doing so, we’re getting far better learning, and even better, real solutions, that help us prevent the same thing from happening next time around. That’s a million miles better than blowing up and overreacting to the whole situation, and it removes a ton of stress, too.

I’m starting to see that in the vast majority of cases, it’s not the individual who is entirely at fault–there are almost always process failings, communication issues somewhere else, or external stresses and factors having an effect. Almost nobody makes mistakes deliberately–we all want to do a good job and give a good account of ourself.

Introducing stress and pressure to the already bubbling pot doesn’t help–it just means that people are more likely to hide their mistakes next time around, which will in turn, lead to worse outcomes.

And that’s not going to help you improve and grow.