How Falling Short Leads to Catastrophe or Victory
Everyone who reaches high falls short.
There is no progress apart from falling short.
Progress is falling short a little less each time.
Falling short – small failure – is easy to hide from others. It’s easy to ignore and just press forward.
What happens after you fall short leads to catastrophe or victory. Catastrophe lurks for all who ignore small failures and tolerate little inconsistencies.
The main value of exploring small failure is learning.
The truth about developing learning organizations:
Learning leaders make it safe to explore small failure and common to celebrate incremental wins.
Ford lost $8.7 billion the second quarter of 2008. Leaders were hiding their short falls.
CEO Alan Mulally made it safe to learn when he clapped and complimented Mark Fields when Mark acknowledged an issue with the lift gate on the Ford Edge. (Fortune Magazine)
“If people on your team are reluctant to confess ignorance, voice doubts or challenge a boss’s perspective, the whole process of learning is stunted.” Rita McGrath, Columbia Business School.
Acknowledge you’re less than a 10 if you hope for remarkable victory.
Think of something you’re doing. On a scale of one to ten, where are you on the remarkable victory scale in that area? (Just go with your gut.) How do you move closer to ten?
The path to remarkable victory requires you to explore small failures – short falls.
Surfacing short falls:
- What can we learn from falling short?
- How might we simplify complexity?
- How might we clarify ambiguity?
- How might we make performance a daily conversation?
- How are we celebrating small wins?
Tip: Encourage boat rocking.
“Ask someone else to weigh in with their expertise, even when (or especially when) you think it might challenge your own thinking.” Amy Edmondson and Jeff Polzer, Harvard Business School
How might leaders make it safe to discuss and learn from small failure?
How might leaders make it safe to discuss and learn from small failure? Leaders need to be open to discussions, ensure all answers will be researched and handled in an order of priority to accomplish the betterment of the issues (everything counts). Follow up with the facts identified and the proposed solutuion. Implement a timeline in case discussed certain items may take longer than others for corrective measures.
Don’t reinvent the wheel and do nothing! Develop and open book scenarion for the issues, so everyone buys in, soon everyone is contributing, small or large your building the foundation for success!
Thanks Tim. The one thing that comes to mind after reading your comment is to be sure it’s not personal. Addressing small failures is about the failure, not the people.
Agreed , the intent is not personal.
Overcome denial quickly, acknowledge the shortfalls of your leadership and be humble to seek feedback from the staff to bounce back. Be sincere in your actions when communicating all of the above!
Thanks Albert. Love the term, “Denial”. YES! Look denial in the face.
How might we be ignoring something?
Where are we pretending that things are OK?
I have been on this site for close to 4 years this is the best posting yet!
In my world these words of wisdom will be part of my weekly discussions with the team!!!
Thank Eugene. Sounds like you’ll be having some great conversations. Cheers
What can we learn from falling short? That depends on the reaction! You might learn how to succeed next time, or that it will gain you permanent second-rate status.
How are we celebrating small wins? Largely, we are not. Many managers consider that getting small wins is their right, and that you should no more celebrate them than you would celebrate your staff coming to work every day.
One thing that thrills me than the article is the intelligent discourse you guys are having. It’s a pleasure going through all your comments!
“Catastrophe lurks for all who …. tolerate little inconsistencies.” I’m confused by this. It seems to amplify the many voices who say things need to be “locked down and buttoned up” and not so ambiguous and messy. What do you mean by “inconsistency.”