What would be the outcome if you, as a leader in your organization, focus and encourage your employees to try harder; to get better at their position by being open to developing new skills rather than trying to be good by not making mistakes? Encourage people to stretch and go beyond their comfort zone. Allow mistakes to happen without recrimination and together look for the learning as a way to improve for the future. People will naturally hide or cover up mistakes if the message is "don't make any mistakes" rather than being open about an outcome when the message is "how can we improve?" or "what can we do differently next time?"

No matter at what level we are performing right now; we can all improve; and the benchmark should be our past performance. The question for each person to ask themselves is 'how can I improve...?' This approach takes the pressure off of the person to be perfect and allows them to open up to new and better ways of doing something.

But as leaders, how can we try to encourage our staff to see the challenges in the business as opportunities to get better, rather than be good or not make mistakes? Most people resist being told outright what their goals should be. As the leader, it's paramount to decide the experience that you want your employees to have while they are employed with you.

Use these three proven methods which will allow you to provide the subtle signals and cues that encourage your staff to, often unconsciously, hone in on the right motivation.

How to Talk About a Challenge Beforehand

You can shift your employee's focus to getting better by talking about whatever they'll be working on as "an opportunity to learn a new skill or to develop personally". Make it sound like a fun experience; something to look forward to rather than something to avoid. Tell them you're sure they'll "improve on over time." Most of us are quick to snap into be good goals whenever we feel we are being judged or compared to others, so be aware that well-meaning encouragements like "I'm sure you'll catch on quickly" can send the wrong message.

How to Give Feedback About It Afterward

As much as you can, avoid comparing your staff's performance to other people (as that creates be good goals). Instead evaluate him relative to the task requirements (e.g. how much of the project was completed correctly) or to his own progress (e.g., how well he did compared to his last project). Create an environment where the employees know that you will be honest and open with them while allowing them to make mistakes in their personal/professional development.

Feedback should always emphasize actions that your employee has the power to change. Talk about the aspects of her performance that are under her control, like the time and effort she put into doing the task or the method she used. Help her identify what needs improvement and what she can do to improve. This will also help her to stay positive and confident, even when she's struggling to get the hang of it.

Focusing on her actions, rather than her ability, is just as important when it comes to praise. Tell her you admire her creative approach, her thoughtful planning, her persistence and effort, her positive attitude. When we praise people for being "smart" or "talented," without also praising the hard work that allows talent to shine, we are sending the message that it's all about being good, and that when you are good, success comes easily.

How to Talk About Role Models (And That Includes You)

Goal setting should be a standard operating procedure. As goals are incredibly contagious, one person pursuing a particular goal can actually trigger the same goal (unconsciously) in another, so long as he sees both the role model and his goal in a positive light. When you tell your staff inspirational stories of how other people reached their goals, be sure to emphasize the crucial role that hard work, persistence, and thirst for knowledge or skill played in bringing about that person's success.

Even more important than how you talk about others is how you talk about yourself. Let people know how you have grown and developed over the years along with the time and effort that you put in to achieve your success.

So when you tell your own story, be sure to share with your employees both the happy times when hard work and persistence paid off, and the sadder times when you feel you gave up on yourself too soon. They'll definitely get the message.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Bagyura, creator of The Powder Puff Guide to Starting a Business, guides women entrepreneurs through the worries, fears and don’t-know-how-to’s of starting a business to successfully owning their first business. http://www.powderpuffguide.com