The way you react to failure has a big impact on your team’s future performance and culture. Make sure you handle failures constructively.
As much as we like to celebrate success, there are going to be failures. They’re not fun and they can derail a team if you don’t handle the failure well. When there is failure, the first thing to remember is to avoid blame. Turn it into a learning opportunity. This is not about the individual. This is not personal. This is about behaviors and about choices we made that didn’t work out well. Find the opportunity to turn those into lessons learned. Think through how future actions can be taken that will help you avoid these failures the next time around.
Here are some principles for dealing with failure:
Fail as a team
First, fail as a team. Deconstruct the failure and understand what the root causes were. Identify all the places where the team could’ve improved. Maybe it was a process failure or a failure to provide information from one team member to another. Try to never make it about the individual. Instead, look at the processes that the team is following and where those broke down.
Next, even when there’s failure, praise people for taking a risk. We’re always making risk/reward trade-offs and if you’re not encouraging people to take risks, you’re going to get a risk-averse culture where people are paralyzed and won’t make decisions. If they’re not making decisions, you’re not going to get that upside. So when you talk about failure, help people appreciate the risks the team took. Discuss what the team thought the odds of the risk were and what the final result was. If the risk didn’t work out, review what the actual odds were. Ask, “Next time around, how do we do this better?”
Your job as a leader, in terms of success and failure, is making sure that you celebrate successes and all forms of success every opportunity you get. Do so in a way that’s going to be targeted to the individual you’re trying to reward. When there’s failure, avoid making it about the individual. Instead, focus on, “What are the things that we, as a team, did wrong and what can we do differently the next time?” Taking this healthy approach and balance between success and failure will continue to build momentum for your team and keep team members engaged and excited.
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