Perfect is the worst. The WORST!
Can we all agree?
(We don’t have to know how to completely ditch it to still reject it.)
And you know where leaning into failure starts? Where we work.
We Are All Failures! Come Work With Us!
What about THAT for the first line of your job posting?!
Seriously though, failure is a part of every career, every workplace, every industry. Don’t you want people who get this? Don’t you want those creative, curious, innovative and resilient folks on your team? (And don’t you want your team to be equally creative, curious, innovative and resilient to attract those folks?
To deny that failure is a part of the work deal is to perpetuate the perfectionist illusion. To keep people from revealing where they see issues that may crush quality, lose clients, roadblock innovative solutions.
Why do you think tech has embraced failure? They are masters of failure! And yet, look at where we are today because of the fail-forward culture of the tech industry. Love or hate social media, your call, however, they are a fascinating study of constantly innovating to stay relevant.
Imagine if we were so hungry to understand our failures at work that our teams and organizations stayed constantly relevant? The first sniff of a retention issue, client dissatisfaction, quality flaw, budget overspend we got really serious, and I mean really serious, about understanding it so we could do something about it.
I Hate Tuesdays – Rehashing Failure…
Tuesdays used to be the day of our senior team meeting back in the day. It was two hours and then became three hours (because there were that many issues to discuss) and it felt some days like it was the same failure (not that we called it that) rehashed over and over and over again. Blame was a constant companion, which Brene Brown shares is “a discharge of discomfort and anger.” Oh, people were uncomfortable alright. It was our job to make the organization better.
Some issues were so systemic “fixing” likely wasn’t a realistic goal. I get we can’t control everything. However, to not study the failure was to miss small micro improvements.
I Love Fridays – Solving Our Failures!
I started to spend Fridays at the frontline, with people living the problem we didn’t know how to solve every day. I wanted to know why the problem existed. Now, this wasn’t a novel idea I had. It was the continuous improvement philosophy so many of my colleagues had brought and mentored us to have.
Here’s what I learned. When I was willing to admit I didn’t know the situation or have a solution, people were willing to talk, show, teach, and suggest. The first step was “this isn’t working” and the second step was “I don’t know how to fix it.” The failure had to be looked square in the eye.
Some days some pretty cool small steps forward to making a situation better, and even a really workable solution, would be found. However, even when it wasn’t, you know what gain was still made? “We’re in this leaky boat together.“
Connecting on a level of failure can build failure resiliency through a shared connection. Pretending things are perfect only puts a wedge in relationships. Just ask authenticity expert Roxanne Derhodge. Authentic is the archenemy of resiliency. What is silently shamed cannot be acknowledged and addressed.
Befriending failure it’s the same as being a failure, lack of accountability, and giving permission for incompetence. Quite the contrary, It’s actually an unavoidable step in the pursuit of excellence.
We can only rise to the level of what we can unconditionally recognize.
Moving Forward With Failure
Does your org or industry study failure with curiosity and fascination? Or is it still a place of shame and blame?
When our work allows us to name, study and understand failure, we can resiliently find lessons, motivation and improvements from it.
There is a reason why understanding failure is a resiliency-building strategy.
Look outside your industry, such as how tech embraces failure and doesn’t squander its value. What might your industry or organization’s version of “FailureCon” be? And what might be the benefit of leaning into the juiciness of obstacles, challenges and roadblocks?
For more great ideas about flipping failure, take a look at these past blog posts:
- If You Lose, Don’t Lose the Lesson
- Flipping Failure into Resilience
- The Benefit of Failure in Shaping Your Ideal Life
PS. I recently did a series of episodes for Authentic Living with Roxanne, a podcast by my good friend and colleague Roxanne Derhodge where we talked about creating authentic leadership and building trust through recognition. I invite you to check out these 2 delicious, nugget-filled episodes. I know you’ll get a ton of great ideas to easily implement for your team!