‘There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.’ – Former US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell
I was recently re-reading the extremely practical and no-nonsense effort ‘Why People Fail’ by Siimon Reynolds and came across the following statement by Professor Dweck, with respect to growth mindsets and our attitude to failure within the business environment. He was saying how important it is that we give both our staff, and ourselves, permission to fail, because it leads to incredibly valuable lessons.
How often do we allow ourselves the luxury – and it is regarded by 99% of us as a luxury – of seeing so-called ‘failure’ as a learning experience, and therefore a positive, rather than a negative, which we spend hours, days – sometimes years – beating ourselves up about?
How many times have you had a staff member literally shaking because they have made a mistake and are frightened to approach you because they fear for their job?
In your work history, how often have you personally experienced that sick to the stomach, ‘Oh God I am a dead woman walking’ feeling as you slowly dragged your heels to the boss’s office, ready to hear the words ‘I’m sorry, but this is just too big a mistake to ignore – you’re going to have to face (fill in worst case scenario)’?
If you can honestly say ‘none’ to the latter, then chances are you haven’t pushed yourself to the brink of your capability. Because true leaders stuff up. They make mistakes. They ‘fail’ – sometimes catastrophically. Jack Welch, who eventually became CEO of General Electric, literally exploded a fairly large area of a plant as a lowly line manager. But it is how he grew from that experience that made him the powerhouse leader that he eventually became.
Failure is a chance to regroup. To learn. To grow. And as women of influence in business, part of our duty – and it is a duty – is to ensure that younger people in the workforce, coming up through the ranks, don’t end up bowed and bloodied by mistakes that they make. That they see them as a learning opportunity. As a chance to see what was wrong with a methodology, or an approach – or even an experiment, Mr Welch! – and improve on it. We need to guide and give support, not scream and rant and say ‘you have ruined everything – get out immediately!’
Even if that is what happened to us.
As women, we have incredible reserves of emotional intelligence. We are capable of employing that ‘softer’ side of management techniques – the human side – with employees, and with our peers. It may be scoffed at by some neanderthals, but it is a strength. It is a tool in getting the best from our people – and you know what? We need to use it on ourselves.
If we make a mistake, we need to see it as a learning tool. A way to improve our leadership skills. Making mistakes – and using them as a way to find a better way to do things – is a strengthening mechanism. It can be both encouraging and uplifting – for ourselves and our teams, whether we are entrepreneurs or in the corporate arena.
So stop playing the Blame Game. It’s boring and repetitive. Raise your own personal bar, switch on the lightbulb – and start playing Follow The Leader instead.
And make that leader you.
Oh – and remember Thomas Edison.
It took him a hell of a long time to get that damn lightbulb right.
But he didn’t give up – and neither should we.