Last week in A Real Keeper: Leadership Lessons from Fishing, I pondered three elements that would infuse the workplace with positive engagement: appreciating failure, building a spirit of community and giving and accepting meaningful feedback. These items work individually (expanding our own skills sets) and collectively (to improve a work environment, a volunteering opportunity, etc.), so let’s explore them in more detail.
Appreciating failure. Sure, it doesn’t feel good to come up short (and it’s the rare employer who proclaims that they pay their people to fail), yet if the “let-down” feeling is replaced with learning, whole new vistas are opened to us. Oscar Wilde says it best, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”
To fail well:
- Look for the lessons to be had and use that as the stepping off point to begin anew
- Assess whether or not the process used was complete
- Hone your skills of analysis to understand what went awry and why
- Reward, rather than being too quick to punish
“Failure soften hearts, develops maturity, broadens thinking, offers insights, prompts innovation, reveals ability, inspires, reinforces the need for risk, builds courage, fortifies, open other opportunities, brings unexpected results, pushes the envelope of future performance, liberates, makes success sweeter, and is preferable to bitterness and regret,” well said by Olivier Serrat.
Building a spirit of community. In business there’s no such thing as a team of one, and relationships are the new currency of the workplace. Paul Malone shares a thoughtful story in “ Humor: A double-edged tool for today’s managers?” in the Academy of Management Review:
“Our class . . . had just completed a 60-hour patrol. The patrol had gone poorly. The critiques . . . had been extremely harsh. We were all utterly exhausted and miserable, without sleep for almost three days, and caked with the mud of waste-deep swamps. Our only desire was to rest. To our collective disbelief and anguish, we received the order: ‘Prepare immediately for another patrol.’ Our sullen group moved slowly into the briefing area . . . [where the briefing ranger told a joke appropriate to the situation]. Something almost magical occurred. Slowly at first, the bedraggled group of trainees responded into what became a full minute of hilarious laughter. Suddenly, the environment changed; the Ranger became a fellow man, not a torturer; the men who had laughed together became a team with a revitalized common cause. For at least a while, the exhaustion and discomfort of the group were forgotten.”
Giving and accepting meaningful feedback. In The Persistence of Vision, Michael McKinney offers this observation, “We develop patterns of thought or mental models that shape what we see or perceive and thus what we think and how we will chose to think…our mind fills in the gaps between our experiences with the same old thinking.”
Because we become blind to those self-defined gaps, we need feedback to help us identify where they are. As Ken Blanchard says, “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Give some today. Ask for some today.