Stories Talk | Presentation Skills and Effective Storytelling
No one likes failure, yet it is integral to our lives. A leader measures his success by the number of failures he has faced. How he dealt with them measures his legacy.
By Mia Kollia
Dealing with misfortunes, obstacles, and failures is part of the human condition. Famous athletes, entrepreneurs, authors, and artists have repeatedly spoken of how they experienced rejection and failure and learned from them. Henry Ford famously said: "Failure is just the opportunity to start again - this time smarter." While basketball legend Michael Jordan has offered us one of the best quotes: "I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games, and 26 times I was trusted with the winning shot and missed it. I have failed again and again and again. That's why I succeed."
The importance of failure management
As leaders, we have all experienced disappointments. How we respond to them says a lot about our character and resilience. It is not easy to face failure - an important reason for this is that we fear losing the respect of others. And yet, loss within the program is. The question is how we manage it. Do we accept it and try to move on, or do we blame it on someone else?
Parents usually teach children early on that they will experience setbacks and failures and that they should "get up, dust yourself off and move on." They may not give them the training or skills to do this, but they encourage them to look on the bright side and move on. However, this can be difficult for all of us, especially for those who have not experienced failure before or those in the upper echelons of a business who are uncomfortable admitting defeat in front of others.
As leaders, how can we manage our failures?
1. We must know it will happen inevitably
It is essential to accept that professional blows will occur at some point, especially if we have pushed ourselves to face new increasing responsibilities and challenges. No one is fully prepared for what they may face. There are many stories by authors such as J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, who received many rejections before becoming world famous. If someone has never experienced failure, it may mean they need to push themselves harder. Albert Einstein would agree with this, as he has said that "a person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." To grow, one must take on new opportunities with new challenges and potential obstacles. So we must understand that the struggle for growth and success also contains the possibility of increased problems. As Arianna Huffington has said, "failure is not the opposite of success—it's part of success." We must see success and failure as two sides of the same coin and know that everything we do will have some elements of success and some elements of failure.
2. We reflect on what happened and try to acknowledge it
Self-awareness is critical in this process—knowing we will face difficult times and harsh feedback. These comments are crucial - whether we like them or not. In the moment of failure, stopping and taking stock is most important. Understand how we feel, stay calm, and accept the fact. Later, we can take our time to analyze it and try to figure out what happened.
3. We accept failure
We can only learn our lesson if we abide by it. Basketball star LeBron James said, "you have to be able to accept failure to get better." Of course, this can be especially difficult for leaders who have risen through the management hierarchy because of their successes. It is difficult for them to accept that something has gone wrong. However, when leaders acknowledge their failures, they also allow their employees to feel comfortable taking some risks rather than fearing loss.
4. We use failure as feedback
In the words of Thomas Edison, "I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Instead, we're thinking about what feedback we've received and trying to sort through it to understand the areas we're strong in and still need to work on. As Oprah Winfrey noted, "Failure is a great teacher. And if you are open to it, every mistake it's a lesson to offer." Unfortunately, most people are not open to learning from their mistakes and instead blame others instead of noticing what they must do to change. In business, evaluations are a great way to review what our team and we have learned from a project.
5. We stay positive
We use failure as a learning opportunity. It's easy to get discouraged by obstacles we may encounter or setbacks we didn't anticipate. Leaders must be positive to show a path of hope amidst difficulties or problems. Their employees watch them and count on them. Author and inspirational speaker Zig Ziglar have said, "Stay positive. If you learn from defeat, you haven't lost." Great leaders take responsibility for failures, enabling everyone to learn from them.
6. We don't give up
Quite a few people can't handle failure and let it "suck" them and demoralize them. They define themselves by loss and not by what they learned from it. Richard Branson, head of Virgin Group, Ltd, has said: "Don't let failure define you. Don't be ashamed of your failures; learn from them and start again." If we accept that we will inevitably face setbacks, we know we can move beyond the disappointments. We need some time to reassess our goals and priorities and move on.