Fail to Succeed?

?In a leadership workshop a few months ago, we engaged in a discussion on trust.? It seems pretty clear that trust is a foundation of great leadership, and this group agreed on that.? A key part of the discussion was around identifying the ‘behaviours’ of trust; if trust is a key competency of leaders, HOW do leaders build trust?? After covering off the usual skills like ‘maintaining confidences’ and ‘doing what you say you will do’, we began to disucuss the importance of? ‘being vulnerable’.?

I believe that trust requires that leaders be vulnerable – that they be willing to share stories about themselves, including those about their?failures and mistakes.? When I introduced this notion to the group, a very spirited conversation ensued!?

It seems that I hit a nerve with some people in the room.? ‘What are you saying, that we want to show people that failing is good?’? ‘Aren’t we supposed to be the role models for success, not for failure?’? ‘Aren’t we paid to know better than to make mistakes?’? These were some of the challenges from the floor.

Of course, what I believe is true is that we as leaders must be willing to be human – and to be human is to err.? In fact, there is certainly a credible argument to be made that if you aren’t failing, you aren’t growing or moving forward.?

Perhaps it is the word ‘failure’ that was causing so much angst, I thought.? So, we decided to focus on the word ‘mistakes’.? That worked better for the group, but still many resisted the notion of ‘failing your way to success’.??

I told the group a story about a time when I was interacting with my son, who was around 6 at the time.? I made a comment to him about I mistake I made.? He stopped, looked at me wide-eyed, and said ‘Mom….?? You make mistakes???’? I realized in that moment, that he really thought that I did not make mistakes.??In his eyes, I was perfect (well not really, but you know what I mean!).? He thought I was an authority that ‘knew it all’ and therefore did not err.?

I wondered aloud to the group about how true this might be in organizations.? Do leaders fully share their stories of failure, mistakes and errors with their teams?? Do team members feel free to reciprocate?? Do team members have permission to take risks, to learn, and to grow?

What is the consequence of not being vulnerable?? I think there are several.? Let’s consider them by looking at the benefits of vulnerability also:

1)?GROW OR ROT: We cannot learn and grow, with out trying new things.? When we try new things, we will sometimes falter or fail.? This reminds me of a quote I heard once…”When you’re green, you’re growing…when you’re ripe, you rot!”? Being green implies?that you don’t have all the answers…you are learning (and when you learn something new, you risk making a mistake).

2)?INNOVATE OR STALL: If we keep doing the same, safe things…we will keep getting the same, safe results.? Progress requires innovation.? Innovation requires risk-taking and risk-taking leads to mistakes.?? What are the organization’s role models, modeling?

3) SUCCEED OR LOSE: Notice that I did not say ‘succeed or fail’.? The opposite of success is not failure.? The opposite of success in not trying because you are afraid to fail.?? It is highly unlikely that the team will talk about their mistakes (and subsequent learning), if the leader isn’t doing the same.? ?And, if they aren’t talking about them, they either aren’t making them (highly unlikely if they are productive in the least) or they are hiding them.? Either way, you lose.

I came across this article by Joe Wilmer in?Psychcentral?titled ‘Are You Failing Enough?’? I thought it provided some key insights into what we can all learn from failing and making mistakes.? I particularly liked his last two points:

  • “Failure leads to resiliency: Even though most people wouldn?t sign-up to experience struggles and overcome obstacles, these are often some of the most valuable times in our life. When we hit rock bottom and can bounce back, we begin to see how emotionally strong we really are.? When we realize we can handle more than we thought it helps us gain self-confidence and trust in our abilities.
  • Failure leads to compassion: Compassion comes when we can connect with what others are going through. If you?ve never been through it, you can?t know what it?s like. If you?ve lost a job, a loved one, or a major opportunity, and see someone else going through this pain you are more likely to feel compassion for their plight.? Failure helps us connect with others in moments of disappointment and be more likely to take action and help.”

I can certainly say with confidence that I trust people who are vulnerable: I trust people who are?trying new things, learning as they go, and willing to share their experience?with me.? I trust them because they do these things, and because they are more understanding of me when I am in a vulnerable place.?

I am not looking for a perfect role model in my leader.??In fact, whenever I have encountered such perfection, I notice that?my trust meter?bottoms out for sure!

What do you think?

Deri?s raison d?etre is helping others achieve positive possibilities in their lives.? Her mantra is ?Move Out of the Rut, and Into a New Groove!?? From her chosen vocation as a human resource expert to her current calling as an inspirational conference speaker and seminar leader, Deri?s focus is on helping others to build positive emotion and energy ? at work and at home.?

Deri combines a B. Mgt. (Bachelor of Management, majoring in Human Resource Management) with a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) designation, and adds to those a lot of other acronyms like EI (Emotional Intelligence), NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), AI (Appreciative Inquiry) and MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction).? The letters that are her greatest source of pride, joy, and motivation are MOM.

Deri?s home and heart are in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband, Randy and two children, Ali and Max.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *