Embrace Failure, Fail up, learn by failing: We have all heard the clichés, sayings and book titles about why failure is crucial to success. It wasn’t until recently that I really understood how important it is.
Early in my career, I was very frustrating with my managers “Learn by Failing” approach to training young professionals. They would assign us a task, provide access to necessary resources to complete it, and then send us out into the world. I would sit at my desk staring at the assignment not sure where to start. Finally, I would dig in, embrace the task, do the work, turn in my progress report, get knocked down because it wasn’t right (rinse and repeat). Some days were better than others. Slowly, I became an expert on the topics, completed the assignments and would move on to the next challenging assignment.
During this process I would often wonder, “Why can’t we learn by learning”. I continue to believe that not all lessons have to be learned the hard way. I felt that the learn by failing management style alleviated them of mentoring, collaborating and leading the staff. I failed a lot, especially back then.
During a recent staffing review, we were considering candidates for an opening in the company. One candidate stood out for the role. They have the capacity, skills and experience necessary for the job. Almost in unison, the leaders in the room commented that this person is afraid to make a mistake; they are afraid to fail.
It was in that moment that I realized how import it is to fail. Not because it may keep this person from being promoted, but because of how freeing it is to not be afraid to make a decision. Embracing failure, provides a sense of freedom.
I finally realize that the “Learning by Failing” management style is a gift. The manager early in my career, were leading me after all. I became comfortable making decision, largely because I knew I couldn’t fail. If something wasn’t going the way I expected, I would stop, regroup and make the necessary course corrections. I have it said that you can’t fail if you’re learning. I no long believe in failure. For me, these situation are new learning opportunities.
When I reflect on why I was able to embrace failing, I understand how it creates a positive management atmosphere.
- Supportive manager: I knew that if I “failed” they would have my back and help me recover
- Admit when you make a mistake: Don’t cover it up, don’t down play it, own it, fix it, move on
- Have contingencies: Be ready for the what if, what’s the next move, what’s the back up plan?
- Lessons learned: Always debrief a project or failing opportunity. Consider “what went right? What went wrong and what will you change for next time?”
Ask your self this question:
What did I miss? What other things helped you embrace failure?