Developing Cultural Confidence

“Teams that are immersed in a culture of accountability, collaboration, and initiative are more likely to believe that they can weather any storm.”

In her April 2011 HBR article “Cultivate a Culture of Confidence,” Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who specializes in strategy, innovation, and leadership, provides some analysis of the differences between #winners and losers and how each handles losing. She shares some great insights into how teams that foster a culture of learning from mistakes – rather that punishment – are not only more innovative, but maintain happier and healthier environments overall.

No duh, right? And yet far too many companies do the opposite, punishing people for mistakes rather than allowing the individual – and the company – to learn fro the setback. I remember when I had my software startup, reading somewhere about a venture capitalist who looked for investment opportunities not where everything seemed to go perfectly for the founders, but where they had experienced huge setbacks – but had overcome the obstacles and flourished. Those were the management teams he wanted to invest in.

Ms. Kanter outlines some of the key cultural differences in organizations that seek to learn from their mistakes:

  • They rehearse through practice and preparation
  • They remain disciplined and professional
  • Their leaders put facts on the table, reviewing what went right or what went wrong, in order to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities
  • They stressed collaboration and teamwork, common goals, and commitment to a shared vision
  • They encouraged support for team members, where other could step in and pick up the ball if needed
  • They offered mentoring programs, so that the best employees could lift everyone’s capabilities
  • They constantly sought creative ideas for improvement and innovation, favoring widespread dialog and brainstorming

Building cultural confidence is not about seeding your organization with star employees who go above and beyond (although its great to have many of them), but about building a system where people can lead, each in their own way, utilizing their own strengths. And its about being able to learn from your mistakes, growing in your role, and improving.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.