“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
The “F” word is whispered in cubicles and at water coolers. When it becomes public knowledge, the office’s gossip switchboard lights up like a dysfunctional Christmas tree. No one speaks directly of it, but the stigma-laden innuendo will always be remembered. Just one mistake, and the aggrieved party will always be branded with the scarlet letter “F” for failure. When you or a compatriot misses the mark, does the associated shame feel like that? If so, both your workplace culture and personal perception need an adjustment.
The pressure to achieve a result other than 100% success is so engrained in business that it’s easy to forget that an open and honest analysis of not achieving a goal is more important than studying success. The tendency to mitigate or simply not discuss suboptimal results can be damaging to your team. Because when we hide the elements of “what didn’t work,” we’re laying the groundwork for others to fall into the same traps.
We can change the perception of “failure” in incremental steps. Often the missteps of the past cannot be rectified, but we can influence the future by learning from our mistakes. The first step would be to ask yourself or your team member about one thing they would have done differently to have changed a suboptimal outcome. Then, we hold ourselves or our team accountable to implement that change—not for the initial “failure” itself. The goal is not to create an environment that excuses not achieving results. The goal is to foster a culture that promotes growth. Remember, for the uber-successful, there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback. It only becomes a failure when you quit!
Failure is the Breakfast of Champions: Accelerators
- List the top three most significant failures you’ve ever experienced.
- What themes can you find in those failures? How might you address them for future success?
- Where are you experiencing feedback (disguised as failure) in your business today?
Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author of “The Innovator’s Field Guide” and “The Top Performer’s Field Guide.” He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor and Innovation Junkie, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas. Jeff helps organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at InnovationJunkie.com.