One of my favorite statements has begun to bother me: “The third time is a charm.” As a skilled practitioner of failing forward, I use the statement more times than I care to admit. I use it in my coaching as well.
Here’s my current rub. When I give someone a second chance, that’s good. We all need some grace, and we all learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Yet, when I give someone a third chance, I move into the gray area of enabling.
The rub becomes apparent as soon as I add accountability to the mix. Organizations, families, and cultures all struggle to find the balance between encouraging risk taking effort and holding people accountable for their actions.
The key for me is whether or not the mistakes trigger a change in action by the “mistaker”. If I keep doing the same thing and never self examine what caused the failure, then shame on me. As John Maxwell says, “the un-examined and un-modified life is not worth living.”
In organizations, second chances encourage risk and growth. Yet, continued chances without changes in effort lowers morale and lowers commitment to personal growth. “If Sue keeps failing and nothing happens, why should I continue to bust my butt to hit my metrics?” is a common result of third and fourth time acceptance of failures without consequences.
Since the best thing that ever happened to my career was getting fired for making repeated mistakes, I know that holding people accountable for their commitments is truly better for a person who is not meeting his or her goals or commitments.
The key is how it’s done. A culture that combines commitments, accountability, and grace is hard to beat. A culture that lacks all three rarely thrives and survives.
The third time can be a charm, but only if it’s different from the second or first time.