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How to Embrace Failure and Make It Work In Your Favor

3 ways to use fear and failure as assets

Deidre Paknad  ::  Leader Development

'See failure as a road and not a wall.' -Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

We all know failure isn’t the end of the world, but it is not easy to embrace. Without clear thinking, fear of failure and failure itself can undermine our leadership styles, performance, judgment and even our happiness. Here are three tips for embracing fear and failure and getting value from them this week:

1. Use fear to focus but don’t let it become your focus
Fear is a powerful sensation; it can be a great asset or hold you back. Use it as an alert system: it signals where you need to put attention, loose ends that need to tie out, or weakness in your plan or product. Once you’ve gotten the signal, focus on it directly and let go of the uncomfortable sensation. This week try listening to fear as a source of wisdom, then write down the signal and your response plan to address whatever triggered it. Does prompt attention to the signal relieve the stressful aspect, clear your mind and catalyze you forward?

2.  Let the team fail to increase its success
Teams that fear failure and its consequence deliver mediocre results over time. This happens because they work and are rewarded for predictable outcomes and not for reaching beyond certainty toward possibility — how do you react when they fall short? To empower your team to achieve beyond expectations, create a regular vocabulary and process for defining committed outcomes and stretch objectives week over week. A recognition system that celebrates achievement of commit goals and the stretch even when the goal is not achieved will inspire your team to go beyond predictable to impressive results.

3.  Consider your failures beginnings rather than endings
Failure is as inevitable as death and taxes, and can make us just as uncomfortable! But each failure opens new doors and presents new data. Instead of getting stuck on the failure itself, focus your attention on the data that came with it and the new door opened. Consider 5 past failures: what did you learn – could you be where you are now without them? You’ve probably learned more from failure than any other source of wisdom. Rather than feeling dread and discomfort, embrace failure's value as a teacher, get curious about the data it offers, and open to where it leads you next. (You may even find you fail less when you don't fear it.)

We hope this helps you build velocity.  Be fearless this week!

— The Velocity Gurus @ Workboard

P.S.  If you’re putting these tips to work this week, capture your plan of action and the teams’ commit and stretch goals in Workboard.  It will be easier to communicate, track from staff meeting to meeting, execute plans and recognize great performance.



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