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CultureSep 15, 2017

Freedom to Fail

Bradley Mickunas

Recently at a Credera Integration and Data Services Practice retreat, I shared one of the reasons keeping me at Credera. The reason starts with the following quote from Micah Blalock, a senior architect at Credera:

“I’m a senior architect because I have made more mistakes than you.”

His perspective invited me to be innovative and humble because it contradicted my perspective that promotion was strictly achieved through success. Micah was aware his mistakes played a significant role in his journey to leadership. My perspective needed to be adjusted.

Micah served as the senior architect on a large project with several of us young Credera consultants. Sometimes Micah’s solutions inspired us to say something like, “That’s why they pay you the big bucks!” With a small smirk, Micah gave us this advice about giving us the freedom to fail, which encouraged me as a young consultant.

Overcoming Perfectionism

I would love to never make a mistake again. Who wouldn’t? I more naturally harp on myself over mistakes with feelings of insecurity than pat myself on the back for personal success. I have done this since I was playing baseball as a kid, and I have seen it play out in my consulting career. As many people realize, this type of perfectionism is crippling. It prevents me from successfully accomplishing future tasks, and it affects the way I treat people. People who have been hurt, tend to hurt other people; therefore, my fear of failure is a problem. My mom corrected my behavior on the baseball field with encouragement and eventually a threat to pull me off the field by my ear if she saw me sulking. Fortunately, I have grown past the need for the threat, but my fear of failure still exists.

Micah’s quote informed me of my freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. Perhaps this is plain to many, but I had to realize I was not hired because I was perfect or even capable of perfection. I was hired because I am capable, and those in leadership at Credera expect me to learn from my mistakes. This encouraged me to take initiative and be innovative on Micah’s project as well as future projects. I am not dependent on my project leader to provide every good idea for the project, but rather I work alongside them and my peers figuring out solutions for various challenges on a project.

Red Pencil Award

As another example, the founder of Build-A-Bear, Maxine Clark, encouraged the same perspective toward mistakes by creating a Red Pencil Award. She wanted people to reflect on their mistakes. The award was given to employees who made a mistake, yet in light of the mistake they discovered an improvement to the business. She helped remove the power of the fear of failure by encouraging employees to learn from them.

Freedom Creates Better Work

Micah’s quote is a brief example of how he led the project as a whole. Young professionals like myself were given the opportunity to lead others in feature development for a new analytics application we built. We did not have to call Micah in for every challenge or problem because we had the freedom and confidence to resolve them ourselves. Like I said, I am not perfect, so Micah was there to help whenever we were stuck. If we made mistakes, we worked together to resolve any issues and learn from them.

Do You Feel the Freedom to Fail?

If you are a young professional, ask yourself if you have the same tendencies as me and ask your leaders if they expect the same of you. If you are a leader, remind people about the value of failing and learning from each failure.

My freedom to fail is an important part of the Credera culture. We “open-sourced” the Credera culture this past year, so feel free to contact us if you have more questions or check out the #LifeAtCredera Summary.