Embracing Failure:  The Value of Risk and Mistakes in Leading Others

How do you feel about failure?  Yours?  Others?  Do you judge Colonel Sanders?

Despite the many stories of famous people who triumphed over failure, many of us fear it.  When did we learn that?  What if failure was part of the curriculum to becoming who we are meant to be?  That all those lessons make us stronger, not weaker.  Ah, but that involves a mindset shift, a new belief that failure and mistakes are lessons, and not be avoided or feared.

Can we embrace this strategy?  Because despite the feelings we generate due to those fails and mistakes, what is the opposite approach?  And what does that teach?  Teach our employees (and our children) that failures are to be avoided?  That mistakes are to be feared?

I wish I could go back in time and tell my more youthful self, not be so afraid.  To risk, to make mistakes, to fail.  And to feel the feelings associated with something not working out as I had intended, and knowing that was okay too.  That I was still okay.  Those stories I told myself about how I “should have done this,” or “shouldn’t have done that” were just that.  Stories.

And, just to be clear, I’m not advocating for careless risks, running around with scissors, recklessness.  I talking about changing the narrative on how we see failures and what they mean about us.

So planting some seeds for a more intentional approach, I’d advocate to:

  1. Have goals big enough to challenge you, to stretch you, and then plan to make mistakes, and fail along the way.  You only really fail if you stop reaching for that goal.
  2. Talk to your team openly about mistakes and failures.  Learn from them.  Be vulnerable about what you’ve learned.  Allow them to be vulnerable too.  Reinforce the learning, and move on.
  3. Practice forgiveness for yourself and others.  Because this too, is part of the journey.