Why one CEO loves when employees make mistakes

Joe SchumacherCourtesy of Joe SchumacherJoe Schumacher, CEO of Goddard Systems, Inc.

Contrary to popular belief, making a mistake at work isn’t always a bad thing.

Joe Schumacher, CEO of Goddard Systems, Inc., an early education franchise with over 400 schools in 35 states, is a firm believer in mistakes. In fact, he loves when his employees slip up — so long as they learn and grow from it.

“When employees are afraid of repercussions from mistakes, they become paralysed — and when they become paralysed, it stunts growth for both the employee and the company,” he explains to Business Insider.

When they’re making mistakes, however, it means they are not afraid to be proactive and take responsibility, he says.

That’s why Schumacher “would rather have an employee make a mistake than have nothing happen at all.”

He says while mistakes are certainly not always applauded, he does encourage proactive behaviour and efforts. “If it results in a mistake, that means there is room to implement improvements or processes to avoid making that mistake in the future. It can become a learning opportunity for the employee, managers, and executives on how to make the business more efficient, which can provide even greater value.”

And the best mistake an employee can make, he says, is one that not only the employee learns from, but one that the whole team can learn from. “Mistakes that lead to smoother, more efficient processes that continue to engage employees are even better.”

For example, a management-level employee had the idea to create an online suggestion box for Goddard’s franchisees to submit things they would like to see implemented or ideas they had to improve a process. “At first, we designed it so managers and above could see these suggestions, while only the senior managers had the authority to make decisions on how to move forward,” Schumacher says.

“What we found was that giving decision-making authority to only senior managers disengaged other managers from the process because they felt they had no control to implement changes. We recognised this misstep, and re-tooled the process and created a cross-departmental evaluation team that could confer and create a proposed decision and action plan to pass along to upper management,” he explains. “This new flow created stronger participation and engagement across all levels.”

He says it’s important to note that he’s not thrilled each and every time an employee makes a mistake. (“That would be ridiculous!”) “A mistake is still a mistake and should be avoided when possible,” Schumacher explains. “But I aim to create a culture and a work environment where employees are empowered to make educated decisions in their roles. The real point is that I would rather have an employee use good judgment and ultimately screw up than to do nothing for fear of making a mistake. This is conducive to both the employee’s growth and the growth of the company.”

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