Is there such a thing as failure?
Failure or success? – One quote that I often use on my workshops is from Soichiro Honda:
‘Success is 99 per cent failure.'
This provokes a lot of discussion around success and failure, with some people finding it hard to get their head around what the quote is about.
However, there are numerous examples from the world of business and science that show that without experimenting with ideas, learning from when they go wrong, the world of science and business would never have moved forward.
What failures or mistakes have you turned around?
Have you had a situation where success has followed a failure or mistake?
‘Do you give up the struggle to overcome your own limitations on the first attempt, or do you keep on with it, trying a second time, a third time, and continuing on in the challenge for the rest of your life? That is the only difference between the genius and the ordinary person.'
The key is learning from our mistakes – We talk about ‘learning from our mistakes', but we've all witnessed in ourselves and others, repeated patterns of unproductive behaviour which show that we obviously don't always learn from our mistakes. What stops us from doing this?
- Our inner critic – we can spend so long beating ourselves up after making a mistake and feeling bad about it, that we don't have the energy to step back and learn from them
- The culture of where we work – if it is not supportive of learning from mistakes we can end up hiding them or not being totally honest, and therefore not being in a position to learn from them
- We fail to take personal responsibility – we might have been brought up in a family or work for organisations where people are apt to blame others, rather than take responsibility for their own actions and decisions
- Mistakes are seen as failures – if we lack self confidence and self esteem, it can be easy for every mistake to be seen as a sign of failure, rather than just part of the learning process
- ‘Don't dwell on the past' thinking – we might think it is important to pick ourselves up after a failure and move on. And of course this is important, but we need to move on in a constructive way by thinking about what we can learn from these experiences.
What has stopped you from learning from your mistakes in the past?
‘We can always begin again.'
A learning vs blame culture – this does not have to relate to the workplace, as it is also relevant within families. When things go wrong do you take a step back, manage your emotions and then seek to learn from the failure in an adult way. Or do you seek out the guilty party, name and shame, or just blame!
Recently a client of mine in a new job as Chief Executive encountered a problem that had huge ramifications for the business. Her reaction was calm and measured, enabling others to take the same approach. Rather than panicking they were able to take a step back and look rationally about what they could learn from the situation and what they needed to do next to move forward.
This is not how all managers and leaders react, when the proverbial S*** hits the fan. Often their fear about the consequences (which are very real) means that managers and leaders have a ‘heads will roll' attitude. Of course you want people to take responsibility, and the best way of doing that is to create a learning culture, where mistakes are seen as part of the process of creating excellence at work, so that people are willing to take responsibility for their actions, learn from mistakes and avoid making them in the future.
Even within families, mistakes might not be tolerated. Partners get annoyed with each other when things go wrong. Children can grow up fearing making a mistake, rather than being supported in learning that mistakes do happen and we can learn from them.
See the questions in the right hand column to assist you with balanced de-briefing.
What can you do to foster a learning culture in your team, your workplace and your family?
‘What is a mistake? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better'
How to spot your successes – If you have a perfectionist streak and/or inner critic you might not notice or acknowledge the successes you do have. If you are always seeing what has not worked, what could be better or what still needs to be done, you don't end up enjoying your successes. By acknowledging and celebrating your successes along the way, you will feel more motivated to continue on your journey and face any challenges ahead of you.
What successes or achievements have you had recently? What has gone particularly well? These can be large or small achievements.
Do you want help in learning from past mistakes as an individual or a team? Our coaching or training programmes might be of use to you. for more information about Grovelands visit our website or call 01865 377334 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a time to speak in confidence.