As the founder of a company where you are leading the efforts to push things forward, should you criticize your employees when they screw up on something?
According to it, Tom Watson had called a VP to his office to discuss a failed development project that lost IBM in the range of $10 million. Expecting to be fired, the VP presented his letter of resignation. Tom Watson Jr. just shook his head: "You are certainly not leaving after we just gave you a $10 million education."
No. You should not criticize your employees in a start-up. (What you want to do is coach your employees!)
In a start-up people are always doing something new (maybe because your product, service, business model or whatever has never existed anywhere in the world before so NO ONE knows how to do things for it; or maybe just because you are giving people a chance to do something they have never done before). As a result, you can be certain they will make mistakes.
And you want them to make mistakes. Because the alternative is not merely no mistakes, it is complete paralysis. The away to avoid mistakes is to do absolutely nothing! Start-ups need risk takers, and risk takers need to know this is a safe place to make mistakes. So whenever you see a mistake, you want to actually reassure them that mistakes are human, this one is not fatal, and so you can both go on to future successes.
However, you don’t want to be silent when things go wrong, otherwise mistakes keep repeating! That’s where the coaching comes in.
Instead, you want to look for the "teachable moment" when both you and the other party can mutually and safely recognize - "ah, that was a mistake!" And then jointly do a post mortem and brainstorm: "Here’s what we should do to avoid repeating that mistake!"