Failure: Don’t hide it, celebrate it


Panic room.
Image by LunaDiRimmel via Flickr

Failure is not the end of the world. With GM now restructured and the financial crisis coming to an end, should we be celebrating?

Yes, IF you have learned from your mistakes.

Fail fast and move on

Many business people I know, have worked with or read about in the press, shy away from talking about failure. Failure is an opportunity. Failure should be expected some percentage of the time no matter what business you are in. The trick to capturing this opportunity is to quickly learn from the act of failing and move quickly to what is next — someone I know coined the phrase “fail fast and move on”.

Ask “why”

Companies and business people usually get blinded by the negative side of failure and do not critically ask “why”. Why did this failure occur? Was it a breakdown in our analysis, strategy, execution, management or the team culture?  What ever the reason without delving deeper you have eliminated one of the most important opportunities to understand your performance and whether you or the organization has the foundation to succeed in the next opportunity.

The power to unite or divide

Experiencing failure can be one of the most positive drivers of unity or division. I think about my dad’s experience in Vietnam or other vets that have great stories of how challenging moments can bring a team or a unit closer together. This can hold true in business as well, given the right foundation is in place. The foundational element that is absolutely a must is that everyone in the team shares the pain. I have seen team leaders call out team member failures and destroy an individual and their own ability to lead the next team. On the flip side, I have also seen great leaders share the pain or even take more of the heat in tough times. It is these leaders that inspire dedication and motivate those that work for them to jump higher and achieve more. I would caution that no leader can or should take all the “heat”. The team needs to feel the pain or you miss the opportunity to unite.

How will you celebrate your next failure? Please comment!

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