When I first began working, White Out correction fluid was ubiquitous in offices everywhere.  It was used to cover errors so that corrections could be typed over them.  While White Out is no longer a workplace staple, it has not entirely disappeared.  I was reminded of White Out when I ran into a friend of mine after work recently.  She had an incredulous look on her face that said, “Do I have a story for you!”

That very day, as she handled client calls and emails, managed projects and priorities, she received this memo from “management”.

“We are locking up the White Out.  If you have any White Out in your desk, you must bring it to your supervisor.  They will keep it in a locked cabinet and only give it out upon request for specific, authorized changes. It then must be returned promptly.”

Whatever mistake lead to the White Out Lock Up one thing is certain: the response is all wrong.  Locking up the White Out for an entire office as a solution to an over-correction error, whether that was made by many or by only a few of the team, simply served to make the staff feel like children.  My friend was demoralized.  It seemed to her to be both absurd and shaming all at once.

So what went wrong?

Clearly, someone made a mistake, a mistake that no other remedy could be thought of except to consume the time and talent of the supervisors by making them responsible for checking in and out the White Out.

My friend observed, “Someone is using White Out when they shouldn’t and we are all paying for it.”


It is always true that, in some way, when training is needed to improve performance, everyone pays.  It costs to take time to train someone to do a job to specific standards, just as it costs to have sub-par performance, and as it costs to hire a new team member when we have to replace someone.  Training costs.

The challenge for leaders is to spend their time and talents wisely.

When we have a training issue, a flaw in a process or performance, it is often easier to Lock Up the White Out or, better yet, do it ourselves rather than take the time and spend the effort training someone to do their work accurately.  Yes, it is true, training takes time.  It is an investment; an investment well worth the return.

Is there a performance issue you have been avoiding?  Is there someone who needs extra time and attention to learn to get it right?  Is there someone who needs to clearly understand the expectations and know the consequences of their actions so they can work more effectively?

Address this issue now:

·       Take the time to communicate your expectations clearly. 

·       Sit down with someone and show them how you’d like it done.

·       Ask them to repeat back to you what your expectations are and the process by which they can achieve those expectations.

When we are direct and clear in our instructions and when we ask for those expectations to be repeated back to us, we discover where the misunderstandings begin.  We can correct our people problems without Locking Up the White Out.


The New Year is upon us and, to make 2016 the best year yet, I have a Resolution I recommend to all our clients.  Make new mistakes.  Make new mistakes this year.  Plan for them.  Prepare for them.  Get excited about the possibilities and then go make some new mistakes.  

Why do I recommend that our clients make new mistakes?

Setting an expectation that new mistakes will be made creates the conditions for creativity to occur and innovation to emerge.  Creativity and innovation do not exist in the absence of error.  They only exist in environments where error is allowed.  For creativity and innovation to be constant organizational assets, the first mountain to be climbed is the mountain of mistakes.

So make mistakes.  Lots of them.

Just be sure they are new mistakes.

The difference between an old mistake and a new mistake is that an old mistake begins to set a pattern of bad habits.  We confirm our poor performance when we repeat old mistakes.  We reinforce our ruts.  We design an environment for predictable un-improvement. 

When we repeat old mistakes, the voice in our head says:

·       “Here I am in this mess again!”

·       “I can’t believe this is happening all over again.”

·       “I thought we were past this.”

·       “Didn’t I learn this lesson already?”

New mistakes are different.  New mistakes reveal new terrain being crossed; new ideas being covered; new interpretations being applied.

When we make a new mistake it feels different.  The voice in our head says:

·       “I didn’t expect THAT to happen!”

·       “What was THAT?”

·       “I never expected . . .”

·       “That did not turn out the way I imagined.”

·       “Well, what do I do now?”

We learn something when we make new mistakes.  We grow.  We cover new ground.

Begin 2016 with this resolution at the top of your list:   #1Make New Mistakes.

Make new mistakes this year.  Adopting this leadership perspective delivers you from the mediocrity of safe, same old outlook decision making.  It liberates your creativity and allows you to approach problems with permission to innovate and adapt.  New mistakes deliver you to an environment of excellence where teams thrive, people are at their most engaged, and progress is possible.

Cheers and enjoy your New Year of possibility and progress.  Make new mistakes!