Juicing Failure

Failure is a hot leadership topic.  We all know leaders should learn from it, but how?  A few months back in a NY Times Corner Office column, I caught a delightful nugget of someone who squeezed some juicy learning from a flop.

In the column, a CEO spoke about how she had not been elected to president of a student club in college.  Yet she didn’t let that stop her.  She interviewed people on the panel as to why they didn’t vote for her.  (Wow.  Moxie!)  They said she wasn’t human enough and didn’t share her passion.  The next year, she shared her humility, plus her enthusiasm and vision.  And was elected.

In order to grow from failure, we’ve got to squeeze out the learning out of it.  Think of these as ingredients for learning-from-failure green juice:

1.     Understand why we messed up.  Was it our personal style, or a belief that blindsided us?   Was it a process failure we didn’t pay enough attention to?

2.     Change – Not easy, but we can set a strong intention to change. Then communicate that intention to others.  Ask a trusted colleague or coach to hold us accountable. 

3.     Tenacity – Again and again, we have to keep trying. As a kid, my brother had a Bozo the Clown punching bag that would tip over when hit and bounce right back up again.  Tenacity is what pulls us back up again, even when we don’t feel like it.   Amy Schumer was rejected twice from Last Comic Standing, before making it on and placing fourth.  Now she’s having a huge moment.  She’s clearly taken her hits and gotten back up again, and I’m glad she did.   

The leader above did all these things, and has probably repeated them multiple times over.

So what helps you learn from your favorite failures?  Beets?  Carrots?  Humility?

In a future post I will share one of my own personal favorite failures.

Dig one out, we’ve all got them.

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