Permission to Screw Up


“Having a young leader like Kristen Hadeed in the world gives me hope for the future. In a world in which numbers often seem more important than people, Kristen remains steadfast in her belief that her people are always her priority.”

—Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last


Kristen Hadeed unintentionally launched Student Maid, a cleaning company that hires students, while attending the University of Florida in 2007. Since then it has grown to employ hundreds of people and is widely recognized for its industry-leading retention rate and its culture of trust, responsibility, and compassion. But Kristen and her company were no overnight sensations. In fact, they were almost nothing at all.

A few months into her new venture, disaster struck when 75 percent of her cleaning team quit on the same day. Reclining in a comfy armchair, Caesar salad in hand, Kristen watched in shock as forty-five grimy, sweaty employees marched up to her and resigned on the spot. Her company was about to crash and burn, with an unfulfilled contract to clean hundreds of apartments. What had she done wrong? How could she get her team back? And how could she keep this from happening ever again?

The mistakes leading to that mass walkout weren’t Kristen’s first and definitely wouldn’t be her last. But that humiliating experience sparked her obsession with learning how to be a better leader and inspired her to make Student Maid a place her people couldn’t imagine leaving.

This is the story of how Kristen built a company where people are happy, loyal, productive, and empowered, even while they’re mopping floors and scrubbing toilets. It’s the story of how she went from being an almost comically inept leader to a sought-after CEO who teaches others how to lead. Along the way, Kristen got it wrong almost as often as she got it right. Giving out hugs instead of feedback, fixing errors instead of enforcing accountability, and hosting parties instead of cultivating meaningful relationships were just a few of her many mistakes. But it was Kristen’s willingness to admit those mistakes and learn from them that helped her become a leader who gives her people the chance to learn from their screwups too.

Permission to Screw Up dismisses the idea that leaders and organizations must always be perfect. Through a brutally honest and often hilarious account of her own struggles, Kristen encourages us to embrace our failures and offers proof that we’ll be better leaders when we do.

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Kristen Hadeed is the founder and CEO of Student Maid, a cleaning company that hires students. She spends much of her time helping organizations across the country improve their own workplace cultures. This is her first book. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.