Change The Way People View Failure To Unlock Their Potential

Fear of failure is one of the biggest enemies of innovation; really of any type of progress or transformation. Leaders who aspire to have an organization that can transform itself and evolve have to create an environment, a culture, where it’s safe to fail.

Innovation and failure are inseparable twins. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. All innovators work from failure. The bigger the challenge, the more uncertainty, the higher the probability of failure. Organizations that are stuck in more of the same will never make the leap unless they make it safe for their people to fail; their leaders need to think about failure differently to drive innovation.

As leaders our job is to change the way people view failure

You destroy creativity and innovation when you punish failure. So if you really want to unlock people’s potential, you have to change the way people view failure. Ok, that sounds reasonable Jorge, how do we do that?

Here’s a lesson from legendary football coach Bill Walsh:

Motivating people involves a constant process of teaching, which includes not just facts but values and attitudes. One of the great lessons that the late Bill Walsh taught his 49ers was that a failure is less important than what you do to correct it.

Former offensive lineman Bruce Collie remembers getting a holding penalty that cost the team a touchdown. After the game, waiting for the inevitable film review on Monday, “I was sick about it,” Collie said later. “I couldn’t sleep.” And in the films, at the end of that play, Walsh stopped the projector. Collie braced himself to get flayed. But Coach Walsh said, “We all know what Bruce did on that play, but I want you to see what he did on the next one.” On the next play, angry at himself for his mistake, Collie had driven a defensive lineman back and flattened him. Walsh showed it, stopped the projector again, and said, “This is what I want you to do after you make a mistake. You don’t need to be thinking about your mistakes. Do something constructive about them.” And Collie concluded, “That was Bill Walsh. He changed the way I looked at failure that day.”

The lesson: Failure is a vehicle for learning. You’ve failed when you don’t learn from it.

With that said, what are you doing to help people change the way they view failure?