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. 

Would You Rather Serve or Shine?

We encounter two types of CEOs in our work: Golden Boys (or Girls), and Servant Leaders. 

The Golden ones are typically a little too fabulous for their own good: too fabulous to coach staff, or court talent, or do their own homework. In short, they’re too busy to lead.  While they’re busy promoting their own brand, someone else is actually leading their organization.

We’ve also had the privilege of working with CEOs who are humble: they’re eager to roll up their sleeves, listen, engage, and position others to shine.  These are Servant Leaders.  They see themselves as facilitators of others’ success, and know their organizations won’t succeed without the people around them.

Of course, no one is born a CEO; these approaches to leadership develop over time. That means you have choices about the kind of leader you are, and who you want to become, at whatever level you are in your organization.

Here are three ways to build your Servant Leadership muscle:

•    Connect – Get to know people, both on and outside your team.  Learn what matters to them, and share what’s important to you.  These personal connections spark loyalty and motivation. 

•    Trust – Robert Greenleaf, who coined the term Servant Leader, identifies high-trust cultures as ones that empower people to be fast, innovative and collaborative.  To achieve this nimbleness, you can cut down on control, internal horse-racing and politics; your organization will be poised to succeed. 

•    Co-create – “No man is an island”; the same can be said for vision, strategy and process.  Create these with your team, and your team will give everything they’ve got to achieve success. 

The bottom line? Servant leaders are more authentic and more fun to work with than the Golden ones. 

Which kind of leader do you want to become: Golden or Servant?

One Thing At A Time

Behavior change doesn't happen five tips at a time.  People can't remember all those new behaviors at once, much less put them into action.  They can make one change at a time.

So, what's the ONE thing you could change, right now, that would make a difference in your work or life?  I don't mean become CEO or invent the next iPhone; something you can do NOW that might create a shift for you.  Turn off screens an hour before bed, or Prepare for that next project one day earlier are examples that come to mind.

Other examples include:

•   Ask colleagues how you can be better partners

•   Begin presentations with the punch-line, then offer the nitty-gritty

•   Remind your team of their strengths

You already know what to do to make things better.  It's that "If only....." issue on the tip of your tongue or the top of your mind.  And, here's the thing: it doesn't matter which issue you choose.  Any one will create a positive shift for you.  So, don't fret over what to pick to make your life better.  The important thing is to start.  

And…keep it going.  Commit to maintaining that change for the next month.  That's how long it takes for change to become habit.  And, once you've got that first one down, CELEBRATE! 

Then, try another.

So what’s your One Thing? Tell us below!