Breaking Away

This past weekend here in Bloomington brought the annual event known as the Little 500.  Inspiring a classic movie that provided this post’s title, the Little 5 has morphed from a bicycle race for hard core riders to an event dubbed “The World’s Greatest College Weekend” that brings fun, a large law enforcement crack down, and the inevitable alcohol fueled stories that become the stuff legends are made of.  Those of us who live in Bloomington are used to the cycle of events surrounding not only this weekend, but the school year in general.

For those unfortunate enough to have a run-in with law enforcement over the Little 5 weekend, a pre-trial diversion program allows for the incident to come off the record.  The process includes community service (picking up trash on Sunday afternoon,) alcohol education (a class Sunday evening,) and a fee or fine of $425.  Do these things and avoid trouble for the next year, and the arrest goes away so it is not showing on your record.  For someone on the verge of graduating college, that can be a very good thing.

It seems that in many organizations, the ability to make something go away doesn’t always exist.  It’s difficult to break away from a mistake or error given the propensity of many to hold things against people for an eternity or longer.  There must be a line between watching past behaviors for indications of future performance and being able to recognize something as a one-time error.  It is important to ask “Did someone learn from their mistake?”  If so, then the value that can be obtained from that person is even greater than it was previously because the mistake provided insight that can lead to enhanced performance over time.  Our organizations can become stronger and more resilient if we are willing to set-up systems where mistakes can occur to provide lessons and where accountability can ensure that these things do not happen again.  In the case of the line of students below, it is hoped a little manual labor, some education, a financial hit, and time (to grow up perhaps?!?) provides that springboard that can bring future success.  What have you done to ensure mistakes are learning experiences and not simply a mechanism that leads to punishment without improvement?

Line of students Sunday morning at the courthouse (Photo credit - Herald-Times of Bloomington, IN)

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