Thursday, April 30, 2015

Eliminating the Fear of Failing

By geralt on Pixabay
Last week, I stumbled across Gary Vaynerchuk and John C. Maxwell both talking about failure within a few hours of one another. And both stressed the importance of failure and learning from it to move yourself, your business, your career all forward.

I mentioned Thomas Edison's famous thousands of failures leading towards discovery yesterday, but in today's world, people tend to live in fear of failing, as if a single failure will destroy their career. Any business seeking sustained success has to modify the culture so that it eliminates that fear of failing and allows for innovation to organically grow. Otherwise, you entrench the culture of "playing it safe" and stifle true development and growth.

Changing the culture is hard. Only through baby steps can your business accomplish this feat. Here's a few that you can try, though, as you work within your own team to learn to fail forward.

  • Eliminate shame with blame - Questions like "Why would you do that?" or statements of "You should have known better" only serve to berate. They will beat your co-workers into submission to the "playing it safe" strategy.
  • Refocus on learning - When someone fails, hold them accountable to only one question. "What did you learn from that experience?" Tweet this!
  • Be accountable - Take responsibility for your own failures, and your part in overall failures. Make a point to emphasize what you learned from the experience and apply those lessons to future projects.
  • Think prevention - After a failure, focus on how to not repeat actions that led you or the team down that path.
  • Don't tolerate repetition - While failing, and failing in different ways, can lead you to a stronger success eventually, repeating the same mistakes means that you or the team are not learning from the mistakes of the past. If the same action leads to the same failure, emphasize the need to change. And follow through.
Some failures are epic and large enough that they warrant immediate response. But for anything that you or the team can recover from gracefully, make every attempt you can to take it in stride and learn your way through it. Eventually, you will find success.

I've failed at projects. I've failed at team-building. I've failed at coaching. I've also had great successes at those things, many influenced by lessons I learned along the way. What have your failures taught you? Email me or tweet me and let me know (or leave a comment on the blog).