Grow out of failure

Take your team or business to the next level. Don't punish failure, learn from it.

Business woman upset by failure

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”— Winston Churchill

Most people dislike the idea of failure. But if you think about it, the only way to avoid failing is by not trying. Wouldn’t you rather help your people pursue failure—to attempt new ideas, follow new clients, and try to create new products—than not do anything about it? If your people are not allowed to fail, they will not grow. If you cannot encourage your team to reach new heights by giving them a safety net [by not firing them if they fail], how will you take your company to the next level?

A necessary step

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again… more intelligently.”— Henry Ford

Being able to look at your failures and learn from them is wisdom. To be able to see them clearly, as steps to your goals, gives you energy and inspiration. If you beat yourself up, and become listless with self-loathing, your goals become harder to reach. The energy you put into anger just holds you, and your people, back. If you have difficulty grasping this idea, here’s a way to see how it actually works.

The next time you or one of your team members fail at a task, don’t chastise her [or yourself]. Hold back your anger or disappointment and ‘act as if’ [pretend] that it was part of the process. See it as a step in the right direction. Talk with your team, and explain that you believe that this supposed ‘failure’ is taking you closer to your goal. Explain to your team [and to yourself] that without the lessons learned from this failure, you would not have the information and experience necessary to achieve success. Then see if you don’t reach the next level quicker and easier than if you would have spent time and energy wallowing in blame, anger and disappointment. This isn’t some mind game; it’s a necessary step in growing your business that has been used by some of the most successful leaders and companies in the world.

Beyond failure

Perhaps the most important job of a mentor is to help his people learn from their mistakes. This is the learning that comes from experience, and it’s the most valuable learning we get. By encouraging your team and yourself to think in this manner, you are creating a company culture that inspires your team to grow your business. Most successful people will honestly tell you that they reached their goals by making lots of mistakes. The mentor’s job is to encourage his people to reach beyond their failures, mistakes and fears, and use the lessons learned to achieve success. Encourage your team to pursue failure, and they will respond by pushing the envelope all the way to the top.

From 0 to 50… million

This philosophy has helped a number of companies reach the top of their markets. Take for example, Mid-America Direct, the largest Corvette after-market parts company in the world. CEO Mike Yager continues to encourage his team to try new ideas, and he doesn’t punish them if the ideas don’t work right away. He believes that with support, his team members will reach deep within themselves and create new income streams for the company. He continues to remind them that they are part of a team and that they are supported, by him and by each other. Even if their ideas don’t work, he is pleased that they are attempting to push the envelope. To further inspire his people, he also gives them personal rewards for their continued efforts.

Yager started his company with a vision, ideas like this, and not much else. After reaching the top of his industry, two years ago he decided to take on two new catalogues and is watching them grow with the same velocity. He believes that not learning from a challenge is the only thing that can turn a challenge into a failure. He also believes in continuing education for his team and brings in the best speakers and trainers in the country to help his people reach the next level.

This was first published in the June 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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