What We Don't Criticize
Chris Scott, the premiership coach of Geelong Football Club, once make a casual remark that stuck in my brain.
It was on one of those footy review shows, and he was asked about a costly mistake made by one of their players. He was surprisingly calm, and said:
“We do not criticize skill errors”
What does that mean?
It means that if the ball comes off your boot in a funny way, your teammates won’t say a word. If you drop a mark or miss a handball, you won’t get blamed. These things happen, even to professionals.
A judgement error, on the other hand, will get you a spray from the coach.
If you kick for goal and miss when you should have passed to an open player…
If you left your man and he takes an easy mark…
If you choose not to run the extra 50m to help out a teammate…
Then it’s your fault. You made a bad decision, and you’re going to hear about it – especially if it costs you the game.
I like this principle, because I feel like it applies neatly to the startup world.
Mistakes happen, things go wrong, deals don’t eventuate, and you’ll sometimes look like a goose.
It’s worth differentiating between the “skill errors” and the “judgement errors”.
That means not getting angry when someone flubs a line in a pitch, or has a typo in their report. The mistake is self-evident, and the person is fully aware of their error.
Instead, get upset if someone didn’t allocate enough time to get to the airport, or if they knew the projector was dodgy and ignored it. This also extends to repeat skill errors that the person refuses to address.
The test of a decision isn’t “Did it all work out in the end?”
A better question is “Did you make the best possible decision with the information available”
You can make a bad call and get away with it.
You can make the right call and things still go wrong.
Teach your team to make good judgement calls, and the skills will follow.