“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence”- GEN Colin Powell, USA (Ret)
Many important and lasting life lessons are the offspring of effort and failure. Ironically, failing is often a requirement for success. For organizational and individual leadership development, failing can bolster confidence and decreases aversion to risk.
Teams and individuals will fail as they drive toward mission accomplishment. Rewarding failure in an effective manner empowers teams and compels them to build a bias toward action. When a team fails, a leader can ensure recovery by developing and mastering an effective debrief process. One that determines the root cause of the misstep, provides an instructional fix and distributes the lesson throughout the organization.
These lessons form the foundation of experiences for teams on their path toward success and development. Coaching a team to recuperate from failed attempts is an existential leadership skillset. When handled correctly, failure is a catalyst to leadership development programs as well as organizational and mission accomplishment and increases trust in the leadership team. Teams who know their leaders will underwrite their decisions, will be oriented to take calculated risks knowing that a one-time failure will likely not have a negative impact on advancement within the company (http://www.rhoneccg.com/blog/leadership-ooda-loop).
On the other hand, team members who lack an understanding of how to embrace, learn and recover from failure will grow into supervisors who perpetuate a risk averse climate. A manager who is slow to delegate decisions and empower subordinates will retard trust in leadership and foster a paralyzing fear of failure that discourages action. This type of manager will not be able to recognize, or diagnose, a root cause or instructional fix; existential skills to overcoming botched efforts and putting team members back on the path to accomplishment.
To be clear, I am not advocating leaders establish an environment where teams are content with failure. On the contrary, leaders should set an exceedingly high success threshold and expect their team to meet it. The leader’s responsibility is to ensure their teams are resourced for success and grasp the vision and task; this includes understanding how to recover from unsuccessful undertakings. When a team member fails, the leader must make sense of the issues and convey the “why” for his organization. Each individual within the organization must understand the lesson, root cause and contributing factors. The team who most effectively learns, shares and internalizes the lessons and repeatedly applies them to future tasks, will build upon each success and misstep. The team with the greatest access to this database of lessons and experiences, and applies them to future leadership decisions and team efforts will be the most successful.
Effective teams are biased toward action. Some actions inevitably fall short of the desired mark, i.e they fail. Effective leaders will capitalize on the lessons learned from failed efforts in a way that strengthens the team, develops leaders and builds experiences that are critical to organizational success.