What better place to read about failure than Success Magazine. Those that have become successful in life know very well that it took many failures and overcoming the fear of failure before they succeeded. In the October edition of Success Magazine, reporter Pauline Estrem challenges us to embrace the prospect of failure in her article titled “Why Failure is Good for Success“. It’s a great article and I highly recommend it because we need to be reminded often that it’s okay to take risks, that it’s okay to be afraid and it’s okay to fail. That’s especially true in corporate America.
People are scared to rock the boat at work. Consumers are not spending because of fear their companies will lay them off. Corporations are fearful to invest a dime on anything that doesn’t keep the lights on. It’s a vicious circle. Last week we were told that the recession was over but from where I sit, that’s far from true. It may be over on paper, but the feelings and actions of people and corporations say otherwise.
When we turn on the financial news these days we hear a lot of talk about how investors are exhibiting a “flight to safety” attitude in their investment decisions. This means they are bypassing risk and higher returns for stability and safety. The same thing is happening in many organizations not only in the US but globally. There is a flight to safety where the main focus for everyone - from the leadership to the staff levels – is the tried and true. Not much focus on risking failure by trying something new.
But I would argue that this is exactly the time for leaders to be daring and adopt a go-for-failure mindset. Empower your team to try new things, to work on a risky project. Not only will that boost the deflated morale that is prevalent among workers today but it will get people thinking creatively. It doesn’t have to be a monumental or expensive endeavor. Many experiments that lead to great ideas start small and get tested along the way to see if they will pass muster.
The next time a staff member says “Hey, I had an idea about…” or “Do you think it’s possible for us to …” rein in your instinct to fly to safety and instead say “Tell me more” or “Sounds interesting and worth looking into”. Better yet, in case your staff is afraid to bring up a new idea or suggest something why don’t you do it? Start a conversation with them. Bring it up in your team blog or next meeting? But start.
Now is not the time to be complacent. Those that don’t take risks fall behind. If you fail, what was the lesson you learned? Celebrate the lesson and apply it to the next idea.
In the Success Magazine article, there is a great quote from Ralph Heath, author of “Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big“. He says “Failure & defeat are life’s greatest teachers [but] sadly, most people, and particularly conservative corporate cultures, don’t want to go there”.
In today’s flight to safety mindset, it’s not just the conservative corporate cultures that are shying away from taking chances. It’s the prevailing pattern. Break the pattern. Be the leader that breaks through fear and “safety” and reap the benefits of a Go-for-Failure mindset. You might just start something really cool in your team and in your organization.