No one wants the role of Failure Director; leading your team and business towards failure. Of course we don’t want to fail at work, however failure is important. We need to understand the role it plays and as leaders be comfortable with it. I am not saying we have to like it, or even include it in our job description but we do need to understand its contribution towards the teams’ success. Without looking at our own relationship to failure and our teams, then we won’t be able to lead the team out of their comfort zones and into new growth areas. As we move out of our comfort zone, the path is more uncertain and some failures will may well reside there.

So, if we don’t want to lead a team to tread water, what can we do?

  • Understand the role of failure in your own career. When you look back at your career when did you fail? What were the reasons for it? What did you learn from it? How did it pave the way for future successes?
  • What is the conversation about failure in the business? How we talk about failure in an organization sets the tone for how people react and understand it. If failure is viewed as only negative, then people are going to play safe and not stretch themselves. Watch the conversations that are happening around failure in your organization, these will be unconsciously setting the organizations approach. If there is no conversation then start it.
  • Reward the process not just the outcome. Most organizations do a reasonably good job at rewarding success. However, when you only reward the end goal then you are missing an opportunity. If someone has stepped outside their comfort zone for the first time and the end result was not a success but the process was good, we need to reward that; because they can refine the process or behavior and next time it could be successful. If we don’t then that person will retreat back to their comfort zone.
  • Encouragement to get started. Our fear of failure stops us starting many things. Encourage the team to take the first step and then the next one. When you make the goal about learning, then people are more willing to get started, they are more willing to share what they have learnt, which becomes part of the culture and the way we do things round here.

So, if the role of Failure Director is part of your job how will you lead differently today?

Photo: Nathan Dumlao

The Failure Director

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