120: How to Lead Through Failure: 11 Ways to Drive Results While Reducing Mistakes

by Joe Sherwood on September 15, 2015

Business presentationDoes the way you lead communicate to your team that failure is not an option? If so, you are limiting innovation and development, encouraging cover-ups and lies, and breeding more-serious mistakes. This is true whether you lead a family, a small organization, or a huge business.

“The best way to minimize failure is to embrace it with open arms.” ~ Ron Friedman, PhD, The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace

Failure has been a frequent topic on Engaging Leader, not because we like to fail, but because if you lead a team that is making a difference, failures will happen. But we’ve never had an entire episode that focused on leading through failure. And so this will be the “failure” episode.

In this episode, Jesse shares three stories of failure. In addition, he provides 11 ways to lead through failure that will help your team drive results while reducing serious mistakes:

  1. Face reality and acknowledge the failure.
    033: Leading Out Loud: Why Communication is the Most Essential Leadership Skill | with Terry Pearce
  2. Provide encouragement by reinforcing the genius of whoever failed.
    He’s Brilliant blog post
  3. Take blame and share credit.
    016: Engaging Lincoln Part 1: 5 Secrets Nearly Anyone Can Use to Be an Extraordinary Leader
    Remember that taking responsibility for someone else’s failure can actually help your team
    107: Four Seconds: Quick & Counter-Intuitive Ways to Get the Results You Want | with Peter Bregman
  4. Use “I” language to own my contribution, and “we” language to share lessons learned.
    The Secret Language of Pronouns: How to Drive Ownership and Accountability blog post
    My Bad, Your Bad?: How to Talk About Mistakes So You Can Move On blog post
  5. Treat missteps, mistakes, and failures as sources of learning – not occasions for censure and punishment.
    094: Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation | with Greg Brandeau
  6. Flexible thinking: Accept that mistakes are a part of purposeful work and innovation. Recognize that many types of mistakes will not negatively affect the outcome.
    014: 5 Ways to De-Motivate People (Are You Making Any of These Common Mistakes?)
    030: Why Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Isn’t Enough for Superior Leadership | with David Burnham
  7. Mine failures for opportunities.
    105: Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace | with Ron Friedman
  8. Have the courage to change.
    032: How to Be an Enduring Leader: “Give Me Shackleton Every Time”
  9. Prepare to not make the same mistakes next time. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” ~ Roald Amundsen
    031: How to Be That “Lucky Leader” People Want to Follow: Amundsen’s Race to the Pole
  10. Let go and move on.
    099: Business Intuition: 7 Ways Leaders Apply the Science of Intuition | with Simone Wright
  11. Encourage and even reward intelligent failures.
    105: Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace | with Ron Friedman

Alright engagers, we’re talking about how to create the space for intelligent failures. Leading through failure will help your team drive results while reducing serious mistakes.

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