Embrace Failure

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.

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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.

  1. Supportive manager: I knew that if I “failed” they would have my back and help me recover
  2. Admit when you make a mistake: Don’t cover it up, don’t down play it, own it, fix it, move on
  3. Have contingencies: Be ready for the what if, what’s the next move, what’s the back up plan?
  4. Lessons learned: Always debrief a project or failing opportunity. Consider “what went right? What went wrong and what will you change for next time?”

Be courageous.

Ask your self this question:

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What did I miss? What other things helped you embrace failure?

One thought on “Embrace Failure

  1. Hi Deb,

    I always enjoy reading your posts! This totally hits home with me. Too many people are afraid of making mistakes and when they do try to cover it up. I am so lucky to work in an environment that is accepting of mistakes (as long as you don’t make the same mistake twice.) We also have a “million dollar club” which to become a member you must have made a million dollar mistake (ie, accidentally dumping product down the drain). Human error is accepted as part of the daily process and as long as you own up to your mistakes and work hard towards not making that mistake (and help others to not make that same mistake) you will never be punished by accidentally failing. I know other company’s that have the opposite culture (getting fired for making a mistake) and this directly leads to employees covering up mistakes.

    I like your four points at the end and they should be utilized by every management structure. In addition, I also think it is important to have an idea of what your next move will be to fix your mistake.

    Liked by 1 person

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