By Kieran Hearty, author of ‘How to Eat the Elephant in the Room’
How do you react when you see a typo? Are you irritated? Do you laugh? We all react differently to mistakes, errors or defects. This difference is important to understand how you run a business, especially one whose future depends on the motivation and commitment of its people.
I like to call it ‘typo intolerance’.
We are all different, but do we value these differences? We are more likely to judge the differences between us, and rarely in a positive way. As human beings, we constantly scan the world around us, comparing what we see, hear, feel and smell with what we like and approve of, based upon our knowledge, opinion, personality and experience. If our tendency is towards disapproval, it cannot be good for business, or relationships.
Our disapproval can be corrosive and destructive. It can make or break your business because it can become toxic, eroding trust, choking creativity, sapping morale and destroying results.
How do people perform in such an environment? How do they grow and develop skills if mistakes are used as opportunities to punish rather than to learn?
If someone we don’t like makes a small mistake, how do we react compared to someone we really like? Same mistake, two different reactions. In the first instance, it confirms our belief that this person is not good enough, that they cannot be trusted - even if the mistake is rare. Whereas we forgive the other person and reflect that we can all learn from our mistakes.
Typo-intolerance works well with things, but not people. I worked at Intel Corporation for many years, witnessing the birth of the Internet, and the development of amazing technology. I was intrigued by the term ‘defect intolerance’, as applied to a remarkable focus on manufacturing consistently high quality leading edge technology. It’s a great principle for ‘things’ but doesn’t work so effectively with people.
People are our most important business asset — they shouldn’t be treated like typos. Any piece of expensive technology is only as good as its operator. How frequently do we treat our people with typo-intolerance, responding with disapproval to their every mistake? Treating people like things does not work. In fact, it is more likely to break than make your business. Instead, as business owners and managers, we should focus on building strengths and skills.
What possibilities might emerge for your business if you choose to learn from a typo, or be inspired by it? How might people feel if you stop treating them with disapproval?
The next time you see a typo or notice an error, please take a moment to ask yourself: How big a deal was it? What have I learned from it? Is there a funny side? Or does it give me an opportunity to do something amazing? Most of all, please remember that in the few moments after you notice any kind of error, you have a choice. Seek the positive, rather than dwell in the negative, because it’s your reaction that will make or break your business.