Friday, August 12, 2011

Fail, Learn, Try Again

I believe there are a number reasons why people are afraid to change and try new things. Two specific reasons that come to mind are:
  • The fear of failure itself
  • Staff members are not encouraged to fail
The end result of the fear of failure and not wanting to change can lead to a stale environment. We had a situation recently with our network that reminded of an incident which took place almost 10 years ago now.

I was a technology trainer at the time and one
afternoon was working with one of the desktop technicians on an issue that an end user was having. We were running all Linux servers at the time and everything was done through a shell window. We were certain that the problem was a particular file within the etc directory that needed to be deleted. So we typed out the command line and both looked at each other with that uncertain hesitation, then hit the enter button. We were both really happy with ourselves and went about our business. Not long after we walked away from the computer, the phone started ringing and one of our schools was reporting that they were having some trouble. I began hearing our system admin asking the other guys about the etc directory, rm -rf (in plain English that means remove, pretty much forever), who deleted the entire etc directory at SMES? Yep, we deleted the entire etc directory at one of the schools in our quest to fix an issue a teacher was having. Nobody said anything to us the next day, even though they knew we had blown away the directory. Instead they let us sweat a little and then sat us down and went through the entire process of what we had done and where we went wrong. It turned out to be a great learning experience and they were happy we had made the attempt to give it a go on our own.

Try Again
I was not afraid to try again after that incident because we were encouraged, not punished or embarrassed. As leaders we must encourage our staff to be creative, try new things, and know that if they don't work, try again.

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