The worst thing you can do as a leader is to set expectations so high and make punishment for failure so severe that employee’s freeze up and stop staking risks. Some managers require a sense of control and therefore micromanage staff. This is a very bad thing to do. Here’s 4 reasons why.
1) Failing is a result of imperfection and we are all imperfect. Therefore to communicate otherwise is unrealistic. When goals are placed before employees that are attainable motivation results. But when the goals are beyond their reach and the employee fears their boss’s reaction anxiety replaces motivation. Employee’s devise plans to blame shift and create scenarios that absolve them of responsibility. As a leader set realistic expectations and expect your people to struggle and fail. Failure is a normal part of the learning process.
2) Failure is often the path to success. How many unintended successes were born out of failure? Bubble wrap was designed first as a trendy new textured wallpaper. The pace maker was designed first to be a heart rhythm recording device. After various failed tests the wrong sized resistor was pulled out and plugged into the wrong circuit. Immediately they realized it sounded like a human heart beat. Do you know how synthetic dye was invented? An 18 year old chemist was working on developing an artificial version of the malarial drug quinine. His invention failed miserably but he noticed that the dark oily sludge he created turned silk a strikingly vivid shade of purple. The rest is history.
3) Failing forward shows that people are trying. You want your team to take initiative, right? You want them to take ownership and make responsible decisions, correct? Then failure is how they will learn. My mentor Bill Rieth used to say, “Make all the mistakes you want just make different ones.” I agree with his philosophy and have shared it often.
4) Failure gives you an opportunity to teach when the student is most ready to learn. When a key employee enjoys success it is not uncommon for confidence to morph into cockiness. Failure humbles us. Their failure allows you to lean in to the employee, put your arm around them and say, “Hey, you screwed up, but I believe in you. Let’s review what happened and come up with a game plan for the next time you have a similar challenge. Sound good?” In the lowest point of their failure you can earn their trust and respect and impart a powerful and unforgettable life lesson. Don’t miss the teaching opportunities that failure provides.
5) Failure helps you learn where you are as a team or organization. How solid are the systems? How capable and well trained are your people? When you do root cause analysis what you learn will prove to be invaluable for your continued pursuit of excellence. Perhaps recruiting the requisite talent is a shortcoming. Or maybe onboarding and training is lacking. Worse yet, perhaps your managers are weak and ineffective. You cannot design a fix until you identify the root cause of the problem. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Be fearless. Be bold. And whatever you learn from failure will be better than not knowing!
I love this quote from Denis Waitley…”Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” Go out and fail! It is the commonly trod path to success!
Michael Duke is the Founder and CEO of Michael Duke and Associates, Inc. and NEWSCHOOL Recruiting. He works with organizations who want their managers to lead with purpose and build high performing t#ceams. His services include leadership training and consulting, recruiting and retention consulting, culture building and improvement as well as team building. He is the author of two books. Lead Like a Coach; Leadership Lessons from Legendary Coaches and Coach to the Goal; Ten Truths to Transform Your Team into Winners. Find and follow Michael here: michaelduke.com and newschoolrecruiting.com