5 Ways to Embrace Learning Moments to Transform Workplace Culture


“Fear of failure is one of the most devastating and disabling emotions within business. So, we said, ‘We don’t make mistakes, we have learning moments.’ A learning moment is a positive or negative outcome of any situation that needs to be openly and freely shared with all people. So that’s why I call it the learning moment. It’s a place of freedom.”
Garry Ridge, CEO Emeritus, WD-40 Company & Founder, The Learning Moment

Mistakes are taboo

On a scale of 1 – 10, how would rate the fear employees have of making a mistake in your organization? If you’re honest, you’d probably rate this pretty high. Most organizations are risk averse and the psychological safety to take a risk is low. People are often reprimanded or made to feel embarrassed for trying something that didn’t work out. 

But, the consequences of not taking risks means that your organization will become stagnant, left behind, irrelevant in a rapidly changing environment. Taking risks and managing the mistakes that come with them can propel growth. 

5 Ways to Embrace Learning Moments

How do leaders create a workplace where mistakes are encouraged and turned into learning moments? Here are 5 best practices of learning organizations that you can apply in your workplace today.

1. Establish values that support learning – Values establish what is important for an organization and sets the stage for how you operate. 

“Do we have a set of clearly defined hierarchical values that set people free and allow them to have choice and make their decisions, so they don’t have to quack up the hierarchy to be able to make a decision within the organization.”

Garry Ridge, CEO Emeritus, WD-40 Company & Founder, The Learning Moment

2. Establish Guardrails: When you agree on boundaries, you can manage the risk and impact on the business.

3. Coach for learning: Work with your team to explore ideas and help them think through potential actions. Involve the team. And make yourself available to help work through challenges.

    Our job as coaches at WD-40 was to help those we have the privilege to lead play their best game. If you think about a coach. a great coach never runs on the field. A great coach knows what it takes to win, knows the rules of the game, i.e., the values. And then they spent a lot of time on the sideline, observing the play so that they can help the player win. And they spend a lot of time in the locker room which is so important. The locker room is the place where you build trust, psychological safety. And that’s so important within the organization to actually enhance the culture.”

    Garry Ridge, CEO Emeritus, WD-40 Company & Founder, The Learning Moment

    4. Encourage instead of blame: Avoid pointing fingers. Show an interest and recognize progress made.

    5. Review lessons learned: Don’t be too busy to stop, reflect, and review lessons learned – What worked well? Why? What would you do differently next time?

    When you embrace learning, and foster an environment of learning, you begin to transform workplace culture & connection.

    More from Garry Ridge

    Don’t miss my interview with Garry Ridge on my GGG Unleashed: Better Leaders, Better Workplaces podcast

    And, you’ll want to check out this deeper dive fireside chat conversation with Garry to hear more about the strategies he used to successfully lead the culture transformation as CEO of the WD-40 Company.

    Garry also has a number of resources on his website: https://thelearningmoment.net

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    She’s a woman on a mission, prepped and ready to help you create resilient leaders and a workplace that is poised to succeed. Having weathered her fair share of corporate and career crises of all sizes, Vivian Blade MBA, MBB, PMP, is a global leadership expert and thought leader who equips leaders with the resilience that inspires teams to recover quickly in the face of ongoing disruption and thrive in spite of insurmountable odds.

    Vivian empowers leaders and organizations as a frequent keynote speaker for association conferences and in delivering transformative leadership development programs, executive coaching and consulting for corporations.

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