10 Ways to Reject Bad Failure and Embrace Good
Some types of failure should be tolerated, even welcomed; other types should be rejected completely.
Failure is good when you’re better for it and others don’t pay too high a price.
- Goes unnoticed and remains uncorrected. Wise leaders bring up awkward topics.
- Is ignored or covered up.
- Doesn’t result in learning or improvement.
- Produces long-term negative effects.
- Destroys relationships.
- Betrays trust and damages people. Lessons learned at the expense of others are too expensive.
- Demolishes hope.
Adapted from contributions of Facebook fans.
Good failure – bad failure:
Failure in the course of trying is useful. Failure as a result of not trying is unacceptable.
If you’re going to roll over and play dead, go home.
Some fail because they try too much, others from trying too little. Some don’t start enough. Others start too much.
Failure – while trying – calls for skillful leadership.
10 responses to good failure:
- Clarify roles. Did someone step into an inappropriate role?
- Give guidance.
- Provide support.
- Arrange training.
- Refine focus. Are they spread too thin?
- Establish effective time management.
- Learn the delegation question. Who does what by when?
- Focus more on completing than starting. Starting is easy; finishing hard. How and when will you be done? Set a deadline.
- Ask what are we learning and what will you do differently next time.
- Reward effort and honor hard work. It sure beats the heck out of not trying at all.
The worst failures are the result of not trying.
Reject failure that results from not trying. Deal with it quickly, directly, and firmly. Establish accountability and/or consequences.
Failure makes us interesting and useful when we learn and grow.
What failures should be rejected? Accepted?
How can we create environments where organizations get the most from good failure?
Anything that we attempt in life can ultimately ‘fail’. Simple because it’s impossible to know all variables and predict every possible outcome.
It’s as if we are all walking in a darkened cave called ‘life’ and the only light we have to illuminate the way is what we have learned along the way. Sometimes what we know can help us see far off into the distance resulting in revealing several options and possibilities. At other times, we may not be able to see our own hand in front of us so any decision we make in that circumstance is hit and miss.
As for good and bad failure, if I must resort to black and white thinking, I do consider some failures as more damaging then others.
Among those is a failure to be transparently honest. Especially in those that claim to be leaders.
Trying to succeed at the expense of others without regard for how much it will impact them.
Failure to deal with conflict swiftly and directly. Patterns of avoidance.
I’m not even referring to perfection here..not even remotely. Still shocked as to how many people set themselves up as leaders…can pay lip service and teach on how important trust, honesty, and communications are. Yet chronically fail to model the behaviors themselves.
For me, those are the kind of failures that we should strive to avoid. Those kind of failures destroy success for everyone right along with relationships.
Not to mention that each one of us are here for such a brief moment in time. Not knowing the day or the hour. Reminded again by recent loss of someone I know.
Failures to avoid include those that don’t understand that the only time we have is here and now.
Ideally, all matters should be resolved or in the process of being resolved before our heads hit the pillow each night.
Because we may not be here tomorrow.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Samantha. I’m glad you resorted to black and white thinking. Your insights about “bad” failure are powerful and helpful. The problem of not being honest is solved by dealing with our failures. The term transparency is import to this conversation.
Thanks for sharing all your insights.
I can feel this is important but I don’t have good advice to add other than don’t let your own fear of admitted failure or appearing weak keep you from having these open conversations about failure with your team.
Thanks James. The way you approach your comment is very cool. Plus the issues of fear of admitting failure or appearing weak aren’t small potatoes. 🙂 Have a great week my friend.
Learning from your failures is the best medicine for true conceit. When you can honestly assess your strengths AND weaknesses through the failure, this is when you will grow, learn and even flourish into a new level of leadership. Always fail FORWARD. If you don’t mind my recommendation, John C. Maxwell has a great book on this, Failing Forward. I encourage you to check it out. 🙂 (and no, I have no affiliation with the author nor his business. I only am a great fan of his work, because I have learned so much from his resources!)
Thanks WheatandTares. Bringing conceit to the conversation is important.
Conceit locks us into our current state. It’s often expressed by the need to be right.
“Failing Forward” is in my library. No problem with the recommendation.
Great point on vanity of vanities…conceit. It is too common for people to evade failures by resorting to confirmation bias. Surround yourself with people who will agree with you and you’re never wrong. The cost, of course, is stagnation and true failure.
In a culture where old, fat, and wrong are a social and professional plague, it can be challenging to spin failure into progress, but it’s a must do. I love your “fail forward” …..a Golden Fleece 🙂
we have a merger situation, and there are those who won’t try now. I tell my team, our job is to turn things over with integrity – but we don’t see that everywhere.
Thanks Billgncs. You help me realize that sometimes those who won’t act are working to protect themselves. It’s that kind of self-serving attitude that propagates mediocrity.
Thanks dan for highlighting the dreaded thing of human beings. Most of us are afraid that failure will be viewed as something that is not acceptable and hence are afraid to even try. As you put it, failure if it happens after putting in efforts is welcome. It gives us an opportunity to learn and correct ourselves and restores the belief that we can accomplish if we try again. One failure should not deter us from trying so long as we stay focused on what needs to be achieved.
Thanks PG. Glad you joined in today. You hit on a key point…stay focused on what needs to be achieved. 🙂
Great write! A once in awhile mistake is okay, but continuously doing something negative needs to be addressed. Great write!
Thanks Christian. Best for the journey
Thank you. 🙂
Love the responses to Good Failure. Will Try some of this in our Monday morning meeting today!
Thanks Phil. Best for the journey.
Thank you very much for this post and for your blog overall.
Perhaps one piece to include in this discussion is discernment—
The process or lens through which people initially open or close to seeing failures, and that which people use to observe and evaluate good (healthy) failure from bad (dysfunctional) failure, and all points in between.
Nested in and around this, of course, is awareness of the lens itself, which, to the extent accessible, is the most helpful way to review and resolve intractable failures, such as those that harm others and that lead to blind biases such as direct and indirect discrimination.
Unfortunately, I’ve found awareness (transparency) and evaluation (self-audit) lacking on this piece, both in the private and public sector. It’s a blind spot.
This is the crux. This choice (intentional and unintentional) reverberates through a company’s collective culture at all scales. This choice is what distinguishes all leaders in our society, for better and for worse.
Great post !