I was recently speaking to a college MBA class and they asked me for my ‘secret to success’. My answer was simple; failure.
Failure is more than just consequence of action, it is a necessity for progress. It is important for growth of both individuals and organizations. However, because failure is scary, we oftentimes tiptoe around it. The reality is that those failed moments are the most critical opportunities for your business.
The following are few examples of common failures that you should always lean in to.
Losing a Key Employee
Losing a key employee often puts everyone into crises mode. However, if you take a deep breath, you can always find an opportunity hidden behind this failure. Losing a key person often creates an opportunity to restructure things to make it a better fit your organization or it gives you an opportunity to discover what your other people can do. Finally, there is sometimes a lesson that can be learned from the exit interview.
Losing a Key Client / Customer
You probably pride yourself in the quality of your business, so when a key client or customer leaves, it is often a direct hit to the soul. It is easy to blame the customer to protect your own ego, but this isn’t very helpful. Losing a customer can create lessons that can be applied to improve service to other customers. It also gets everyone’s attention, which creates buy-in to whatever improvements need to be made.
Project Gone Wrong
You have an idea, so you pull some team members together to work on the idea. A project is born. Within a few weeks, the project is lost. There is a lack of clear direction. People are becoming disengaged. Deadlines come and go unmet. It’s easy to get frustrated with your people when this happens, but it is really a coaching opportunity for you as a manager. Take the project leaders and, without judgment, ask them questions to help them to triage the problems that set the project on the wrong path. This will help your team learn from their own mistakes much more effectively than you pointing out the mistakes to them.
Letting People Down
“My word is my bond” is a common saying and I think everyone likes to think that it applies to them. Yet, we all disappoint someone at some time or another. It is easy to be hard on ourselves, but sometimes these experiences can be humbling and healthy. Own the mistake. Apologize for it. Learn from it. Then let it go.
Next time you fail, lean into it. You will find the failures you experience will also become your biggest opportunities.