The “F-Word”

The "F-Word"

It seems counterintuitive to actively seek out people who have a positive relationship with something that almost epitomizes negativity. But, in my opinion, few things are more telling when trying to quickly decipher the character of a person than to ask about their experience with failure.

I was fortunate enough to have a recent conversation about it with one of my living role models, Ramona Pierson. Successful serial entrepreneur and current Founder and CEO of Declara, Pierson describes herself as a ‘risk-taker’ who fails frequently – necessary DNA of an innovator and entrepreneur.

“Having success doesn’t tell me much about a person,” said Pierson, “What people do when they fail – how do they recover? What do they do to recover? How do they course correct and how do they use that failure to learn to do other things?” That’s what interests her, and should interest you as a leader too.

In the world of entrepreneurship, failing is just part of the lifestyle – it’s a natural component of pushing the limits. But even in corporate settings, it is inevitable to some extent. And when it happens, nobody wants to work with the person who blames others, refuses to admit that the project failed, or becomes paralyzed and unable to move forward.

Consider these suggestions for building a team with a better relationship with failure:

Remember the big picture. As Pierson says, “When we start seeing ourselves as being more than a failure or more than we are today – I think we can get through anything.” However big this flop may feel, there are always new opportunities.

Cultivate a fail-friendly space. Build an atmosphere where your team can admit when something is not working. The alternative might mean continuing to invest in a fizzled project well beyond necessary – that’s a compounding fail.

Learn from mistakes or you’re doomed to repeat them. Take the time to pinpoint as many missteps along the way as you and your team are able. Also, while you’re at it, acknowledge what went well and learn from that.

Own up to your own mistakes. It’s hard not to like a leader who can admit what they did wrong. It also sets a good example if that’s the kind of vulnerability you want from your team.

Don’t put up with people who constantly blame the people around them. Life is just too short.


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