Turn failure into a springboard

N°261b – Synopsis (8p.) – Learning
Turn failure into a springboard
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Company leaders generally perceive failure as a setback rather than a means to learn and improve. How can you make use of your failures—and help your employees do the same?

No one is immune from misguided decisions, unfortunate behavior or awkward statements. Mistakes and failures punctuate the careers of great leaders and millions of anonymous employees alike, without distinction. But it’s the ability to rebound and progress after failure that sets some people apart.

Alan George Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, for example, confides one of his greatest professional regrets, in the article “I think of my failures as a gift”. He recounts how he failed to acquire a healthcare brand, even though the discussions were ripe. Company leaders on both sides concurred on the complementarity of the two firms and had agreed on the purchase price. But Lafley had underestimated the political and human issues raised by the transaction. He ran up against strong opposition by middle management and employees and the deal finally had to be abandoned. Lafley admits having experienced this episode as a personal failure. He feels that he could have successfully closed the deal if he had better anticipated the human issues. However, in hindsight, he considers that the experience benefited him. This error made him conscious of a gap, which he could then work to rectify through long-term effort. Today, he concludes that this failure was decisive in opening his eyes and making him a wiser leader.

Of course, we always prefer to avoid failure. But this example illustrates that failure also has an upside. In fact, it is an excellent opportunity to identify shortcomings, insufficiencies or ways of thinking that can hold back individuals or teams. Convincing ourselves of this is not sufficient to learn from our disappointments, however. Failure triggers powerful emotions. It activates many defensive reflexes that may prevent us from analyzing it objectively. It is therefore necessary to combine personally taking a step back with methodical questioning and collective effort for these attempts to bear fruit. In this synopsis, we have gathered tips to help you, either as an individual or as a manager of people confronted with failure.

In this synopsis:
- Regain a positive mindset after failure
- Instill a culture of constructive failure
- Take advantage of failure to improve your self-knowledge

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