5 Ways to Transform Failure

From TGI’s Marketing Hour Magazine, September/October 2015 issue. Back in the Saddle: Tolerating Failure and Winning Against All Odds.

“Mistakes are the portal of discovery”- James Joyce

In business, following your dream to bring your product or service into the world is a risky venture. Among the many incredible stories of great successes in business ventures, there are far more stories of dreams that were lost along the way. Entrepreneurship is a risky venture, the competition is fierce, and odds are you are going to experience some degree of failure among the way. But failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some of the greatest innovators’ in history have succeeded because of the way they have transformed their failures.

If you feel defeated along the way, here are 5 ways to transform failure:

  1. The Environment: You must create a safe, flourishing work environment that promotes creativity and healthy risk. Reward and celebrate your team for their suggestions and efforts- not only their successes. Try to limit the use of the word “failure”, it implies a complete dead stop. Nobody wants to be associated with that, so why create that negative energy? Instead, try to use the terminology, “Trial and error”.
  2. Listen and Learn: Make time to listen to your team. Very often, business owners or senior management completely outsource to consultants for a new set of eyes, instead of tapping the resources within- those who intimately know the company culture and what clients need.
  3. Track Your Progress: Have a formal process to track ideas and programs. Have fun with it by making it into a contest where you discuss progress as often as you like (monthly, quarterly, etc.). It’s important to follow through and take action, so that your team knows any viable suggestions will be tested and engaged with.
  4. Avoid He Said, She Said: Taking a 20,000- ft assessment of what went wrong in any situation should not be a blame-and-shame session. Seek input on how to deal with the issue(s) moving forward and look for ways to avoid the proverbial “same mistake twice”.
  5. Be Consistent: If you’re going to meet the prospects of failure head on, be consistent in how you treat it, regardless of the size of the problem and who is at fault. The key is to build a healthy culture around failure- one where missteps are seen as learning opportunities for everyone. This increases and promotes individual responsibility around failure.

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