The only mistakes most of us make are the ones we fail to learn from. Everything we learn is through failure of some sort.
When we learned to walk for example, we took that first step, fell down and then evaluated what we did wrong in our little minds and tried again. Our parents encouraged us to continue to keep trying and even found it fun to watch us fail over and over again.
Eventually we were not only walking, but running, participating in athletics and doing more and more complex things with our ability to walk. And through it all, we have never given walking a second thought – we just do it.
Can you imagine what would have happened if when we took our first step and fell down, our parents became upset and told us, “that was terrible.” Or, “I don’t ever want to see you fall again.” We most likely would have delayed our walking skills, or perhaps never walked!
As leaders of teams and organizations, when we don’t celebrate errors and fail to encourage progress, that is exactly what happens to those we lead as well. We create teams and organizations where people fail to learn, or at least learn as quickly as they are capable of learning. Companies lose out as a result.
When we neglect to embrace failure, those we lead hide things in fear of being rebuked. They avoid feedback because failure is seen as so negative.
Avoiding feedback hurts teams. Team members abstain from bringing up concerns in meetings because they don’t want to take the risk. Team members are more likely not to ask for help. Collaboration, open communication and trust all suffer as a result.
In the below video, Spanx founder and and CEO Sara Blakely shares a story about how her father approached, taught and celebrated failure in their home. She also talks about how she approaches failure personally as a leader. It is a great example of how we can approach failure at home, on our teams and in our businesses.
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