Failures Don’t Have to Be Fatal

Sections of this topic

    I’ve said many times: I’ve learned more from my failures than from my successes…and I’ve made some whoppers.

    Goof-ups, missteps, slip-ups and embarrassments are no reason to ring one’s hands and hang one’s head. In fact, our mistakes can be the most powerful teachers we have. The lessons we learn often stick with us for a lifetime.

    Can you remember a big mistake you’ve made and hopefully learned from? I certainly can.

    Turn Failure Into Success
    Mistakes are in many ways gifts. If we assess what went wrong and also what went right, we can translate that learning into more effective leadership behaviors, perspectives and skills. Here’s why.

    1. They grab our attention.
    Failures have a way of focusing our attention and putting crucial problems right in our faces. They point out that something needs fixing. If it’s really a biggie, it gets us focused ready for battle and on the road to success.

    Recently I gave the wrong dates to two guest for an up –coming talk radio program. Once I realized what had happened, I quickly contacted them, acknowledged my goof-up, apologized and then worked with them to reschedule. The lesson I learned, as someone who is not inclined to be detailed focused, is to review my calendar and all my correspondence to ensure I provide correct information.

    2. They make us notice our individual actions and choices.
    Sometimes our instinctive reaction to a mistake is to fix blame elsewhere. The classic is the dog ate my homework. Others are “Somebody should have told me about this.” Or “that was to be done by Sarah’s department not mine.” Instead we should look for our role in the mistake. Taking responsibility for a goof-up is not fun. Yet the act of doing so points to what we can do differently next time.

    3. They push us to examine if we’re off track or heading in a wrong direction.
    When a project fails this can be a sign that it was unwise for you to even begin the project in the first place. When a job you attempt to change careers fails, this can be a signal that the choice was unwise for now. They also help us get in touch with what we really want to do and not do; be or not be; have or not have.

    How Do You Handle Failure?
    Some people when faced with a big mistake begin to pull back to retreat. Instead we can use the breakdown to learn, grow and be better leaders. One way to get maximum benefit from mistakes is to examine them through the filter of these powerful questions

    • How can I use this experience?
    • What did I learn about me, about others, about the situation?
    • What will I do differently next time and how will I be different in the future?

    Management Success Tip:

    When we experience the consequences of mistakes we get a clear message about which of our efforts are working and which are not. There’s nothing like an overdraft noticed from the bank to tell us that our spending is out of control. Or a running out of gas on the freeway in bitter cold or blazing hot weather that tells us to pay attention to the gas gauge. What do you need to pay attention to before it becomes a big headache?

    Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?