This week I was at an IoD networking event at the Palace of Westminster attended by IoD members, peers and MPs. One of the conversations I had with a cross bench peer was about increasing diversity on boards. And she regaled that one of her favourite interview questions is ”have you had a juicy failure”?
That wasn’t because statistically the next role might be a juicy failure but because unless they had experienced a juicy failure did they really know how to perform under pressure, how to manage their team in such an environment, could they look beyond a blame culture and also go back to immediately before the failure started and understand the contributing factors including their own behavior?
So that got me thinking about failure and how we react; and the impact it has on us in all areas of our lives.
Although I couldn’t think of a juicy failure, it would be true to say that not everything in business has been perfect and it’s inside that I need to look to for those answers. There may have been a range of external circumstances but at the end of the day it was how I reacted to those circumstances and the thinking that I had going on at the time that was a significant contributory factor.
Be honest, how many of you can say that the failures you have encountered in business and in life have been 100% created by external circumstances and other people?
In John Parkin’s book “F**k It” he talks about how saying “f**k it” is a way to tell the mind to relax and that everything is ok and giving up on things that aren’t working is ok as things really don’t matter that much.
Now in business it might be hard to have that ethos for everything as clearly things are important and there are certain things that have to be right or a business to fail.
Perhaps the trick we are missing is that it is ok to fail or even partially fail: if we don’t accept that premise then there will always be some resistance somewhere to trying something new and taking risks. Let’s face it in business we are taking risks, of some sort, every day.
If things don’t go to plan we shouldn’t working through it even if we change direction or come to a point where we know it’s time to stop and do something different. And when we know that then there’s a subtle shift in us and those we work with. Because in recognizing and being open to it being ok for some degree of failure it empowers the people within the business.
Of course there’s a difference between a totally laissez faire attitude and behavior and one of being committed.
Don’t forget that some of the greatest inventions were actually failure e.g. post it notes. A specific glue was being perfected but in the trials to make the glue that would outclass all glues what was found was something that was sticky light glue and left no mark and allowed the paper to be peeled off and stuck on something else time and again. It would have been very easy to dismiss that batch of glue as a failure wouldn’t it?
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games, 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed it, I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed”
So when things don’t go according to plan, give yourself permission to say that’s ok. Look at what happened immediately before and include others in this but remembering to look within because this is a truly inside out world. What learnings were there, what would you do differently? How would you behave? And more importantly what would you think differently?
Just as much as it’s very important to think about what if it went right it’s also important to you, the people you work with and the business to be ok with failure as out of that success is born
As always, if you’d like to find out more about my thoughts on this, then why not call me on +44 (0) 1296 681 094, click here to ping me an email or even leave a comment below.
Until next time …