Most people are driven by a desire to win and succeed, and even those who don’t consider themselves competitive would likely agree they enjoy success, which is often particularly true for those in business leadership roles. This desire to win and succeed can be an asset when it leads to determination, hard work, and commitment, as well as the ability to motivate others. However, the reality is that no one wins all the time. But although failure is a reality, what matters most is how we adapt to that failure.
Let’s look at some specific consequences of failing to embrace failure.
If failures are not appropriately addressed, they may linger in the workplace and never fully disappear; everyone knows something negative happened, but nobody wants to address it. But successful leaders recognize the value of facing failure head on and having an open discussion that can yield insights on how to deal with similar problems in the future.
When failures aren’t analyzed and reviewed, people have a tendency to either openly or subtly blame others. “Failure and fault are virtually inseparable in most households, organizations, and cultures,” says Amy C. Edmondson, author and Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School. “Every child learns at some point that admitting failure means taking the blame. That is why so few organizations have shifted to a culture of psychological safety in which the rewards of learning from failure can be fully realized.”
Lack of Learning
We learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. Ignoring our failures is almost certain to result in our perpetuating them, but analyzing our failures can provide us with knowledge that will help us prevent such failures in the future. In other words, failure teaches us what didn’t work. As Thomas Edison is said to have noted, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Though failing isn’t fun, it happens, and if failures aren’t addressed properly, it can cause organizations and their employees to become risk-averse and to miss out on potentially lucrative opportunities.
Some amount of failure is a virtual certainty in business, but what’s important is that we handle this failure properly and use the experience to improve. Here, we’ve looked at the importance of recognizing and embracing failure, and in our next post, we’ll talk about the steps for doing so. In a later post, we’ll discuss the common types and causes of failure, and finally, we’ll talk about how to develop a culture of learning and experimentation to consistently make the best of any failure.