Failures Let People Fail
If you hear the train’s whistle and see the light in the tunnel you know the train’s coming. If you let a train wreck happen without saying something, at best you’re foolish at worst you’re cruel.
Letting people fail isn’t:
- Saying nothing when a wreck is around the corner.
- Standing on the sidelines gloating.
- Forgetting about financial costs.
- Ignoring the negative ripple effect of failure.
- Passive resignation to inevitable defeat.
Never let anyone fail before you’ve done
everything appropriate to help them succeed.
If you’ve shared your insight and experience and they reject guidance, let them fail, reassign them, or fire them. But remember, if they could be right, trust them; take risks with them.
Expect people who fail to learn, make it right, and not repeat the same failures again. Bring consequences on repeated failure.
Correcting failure isn’t punishment it’s responsibility.
Letting people fail isn’t burying your head in the sand.
Repeated failure may indicate employees aren’t properly assigned. Reexamine job responsibilities with employee aptitude and skills in mind. Repeated failure points to leaders as much as employees.
After not before:
Letting people fail is best seen in your attitude after failure not before.
Never punish sincere failure; always learn.
Stand with people not against. Leaders fail when they don’t develop and implement failure policies.
Benefits of failure:
- Open minds.
How have you seen failure handled poorly?
How have you seen failure handled effectively?
I have experienced my own failure handled in what I believe was a poor manner by reassigning me after initial failure. No opportunity for learning or correction was granted, and no regard was given for the ripple effect of my colleagues own reassignments in response to my own. It happened to every one of us on my middle management level at least twice in on fiscal year.
It’s hard to hit a moving target; subsequently, productivity wanes.
Inspiring… dealing with failure properly is also a learning experience. Personally, I had to internalize that self pitty and resentment doesn’t do anything constructive.
I love this post! It’s clear and compelling. I believe it’s a leader’s job to set the tone for failure up front by letting people know it is inevitable and how it will be faced. In doing so leaders create a safe environment that can allow growth to flourish.
Hello Dan, you have missed the beauty behind letting people fail, it is also called the sink or swim approach to managing others. The sink or swim method of mismanagement relieves managers from having to do anything to prepare their direct reports to be successful. If the employee succeeds, the managers gets the credit and if the employee fails, the manager says, “the employee failed to live up to our expectations.” Either way the manager does not lose.
Great post Dan. The whole concept of failure, how to prevent it and what to do when it happens is a big one. In my opinon, a leader needs to provide the structure and the environment that make people feel safe enough to suggest and try something new or different. Personal and professional growth involves taking calculated (not reckless) risk and sometimes that backfires. There absolutely are repercussions to failure. Are they greater than the repercussions felt when people are not allowed to try, not allowed to risk, not allowed to fail?
Failure is such a strong leadership tool…. “how/what have you learned?” is key question. (that said) In this economic climate, any leader/manager must cognizant of costs of failure,
When is it ok to let your superiors that you are frustrated with their lack of planning?
What is the best way to communicate frustration without blowing up?
There is a massive difference between a leader who is desperate to say “I am so glad you succeeded and proved me wrong” from one that is waiting for the first opportunity to say “I told you so”.