Let Failure Do Its Work
You had a plan, but it didn't go that way.
So here are your choices:
1. Deny it - to yourself or others.
2. Admit it - but blame someone or something else.
3. Admit it - and look for the opportunities to learn something for next time.
Why do we deny failure? Somewhere along the way we decided that things outside of us were tied to something inside of us. So if something we did failed, then WE might be a failure. Maybe a better viewpoint is to look at your life like a sporting event where a failure is just a missed shot. It's an attempt to score in the middle of a bigger game. Imagine "denying" a missed free throw. Ridiculous.
“Positivity is blind. Optimism is the undying belief that the future is bright, but it’s not a denial of the current state.”
Some people admit a failure, but then shift any discussion of the root cause to blame someone or something else. Naturally, things outside of our immediate control contribute to our outcomes, but the reality is that our ability as leaders to prepare for variables, work around them, or persevere through them points back to us. "I missed the free throw because the fans were screaming," doesn't separate the free throw shooter from the missed shot. In fact, it makes everyone question why the player wasn't more prepared.
“You are not a failure till you start blaming others for your mistakes.”
For the people who can look failure square in the eye, admit it and look for the opportunities to learn or develop something beyond it, they are basically snagging their own rebound, if you'll allow me to continue my basketball analogy. Players practice that because they know they won't always make the shot. Shouldn't we?
We are in the middle of having a deck replaced. The process of choosing the color for the composite deck boards is always important to homeowners, and we were no different. In fact, there are actually 2 colors involved in the design. The day before the work was to begin, with framing wood and a dumpster already positioned on our property, we were informed that the main color was suddenly unavailable until September. Our contractor simply said, "I'm going to finish your deck all in the secondary color, so you have a working deck for the summer. But in September, I'll come back at my cost and replace the boards to create the 2-color design we selected."
What did that rebound look like? He hadn't even demolished the old deck or started the project in any way. We didn't have any first hand evidence yet of the quality of his work, but he had already increased our confidence in him.
How did he rebound? He didn't deny there was a problem. He didn't try to manipulate us into changing our color choices. He literally didn't even mention changing our colors. He did share some reasons about why the situation was occurring, but he never tried to shift the blame outside his own ability to create a solution. He looked at the situation and found a way to accept responsibility for fixing it.
What did that failure cost?
1. Some potential money and time.
2. Some losing face and disappointment for a client.
What was it worth to prioritize the rebound?
1. Well, I'm writing about him, so that counts for something.
2. He'll undoubtedly get referrals from this job assuming he finishes as strong as he started.
3. With greater trust, he has greater flexibility in the way he works with us.
4. He has his own peace of mind. He's not trying to remember which white lies he told to who and when.
5. He earns respect, as John Maxwell says, "on difficult ground".
"A failure, handled well, can start to look like another form of success."
Trudy Menke - Reframing Leadership
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