Have you ever failed? I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t experienced failure in some form or fashion. The key is what happens next. Was it a learning experience? Or something you’ll need to do multiple times before the lesson is learned?
Sometimes it’s not readily apparent that a failure has happened. Other times it’s immediately obvious. The effects can be fleeting or long-lasting. They can be minor or significant.
In my experience, failure can be a great teacher. I try to create an environment where everyone on my team has a very real and achievable chance at success. Why wouldn’t I?! I won’t be successful if those around me aren’t successful. Sometimes this means letting people fail when that failure could be prevented.
I tell the people on my team that one of my goals is to protect them. There are a few qualifiers though.
First, I’ll let them fail but not if it impacts the client or project negatively…meaning they can fail in front of me and hopefully it’s a learning experience.
Second, I do whatever I can to prevent client / project-impacting failures.
Third, there are some types of failures I can’t protect them from. I typically say something like “If you punch the client in the face, I can’t and won’t protect you.”
The value from failure is two-fold (likely more, but these are the big-hitters for me).
Learn to recover
My daughters have played in hundreds of soccer games. I’ve always told them that they will very likely get knocked down or get knocked off the ball, in every game. The best players are those that jump back up or turn on a dime and get back into the play and the game. Recovery time and the recovery mindset are crucial. Too many times I see players hang their heads when they lose the ball or lazily get off the ground (assuming they’re not injured). On my team I want those who recover quickly and move forward…in soccer and in business.
Keeping with the soccer theme, chances are that failures (i.e. losing the ball or getting knocked down) are the result of the player not just playing it safe, but rather pushing the boundaries of what’s possible or what they usually do. Failure from pushing boundaries means that next time you might be able to push the boundaries even further (i.e. the point at which failure might happen), which I believe results in growth and improvement. Whether in soccer or in business, pushing the extent of a previously existing boundary has the potential to result in significant learning and long-term gain.
In conclusion...failure teaches.
Special thanks to my wife, Joy, for letting me fail pretty much continuously and creating an environment in which I’m accepted, and to Nico Wiggins, who is masterful at creating environments where boundary pushing, collaboration and learning are the norm and not the exception.