Permission Granted: Proceed to Fail

One of the best things I learned in the NFL was that not all failures were bad. In fact, it’s generally true that you can only achieve peak performance when you have a healthy tolerance for repeated failure.

I’m sure you’ve known people who were afraid to succeed, because then people would expect more from them. They were afraid to truly give their best effort, because if they sold 10 units in a month, their boss might expect them to sell another 10 units next month, and that’s too much pressure. That’s too much risk of failure.

Instead, they sell five units per month and never try to push beyond that, because five is a comfortable number. It’s a quantity that they know they can “succeed” at hitting every month.

But someone who is not afraid to fail, might sell five units in January, eight units in February, 10 units in March, and now he’s shooting for 12 units in April. But let’s say he “fails” in April and only sells nine units; he has done what author John Maxwell calls, “Failing Forward.”

If he only hits nine units, some might say that he failed, but this is what author John Maxwell calls, “Failing Forward,” in his book, “Failing Forward: ¬†How to Make the Most of your Mistakes.”

Truly successful people embrace failures in their lives. They rush out to make some useful, informative, educational mistakes, because it’s only through those mistakes that they can truly master their craft.

As a leader, do you give your people permission to fail? Do you create a safe zone in which they can take the chances that are necessary to push the business forward? Do you let them make their own mistakes, because those are the most powerful teachable moments? Or do you create an environment that is hostile to mistakes, where people fear that making a mistake will bring your wrath down upon them?

The greatest leaders know that success will only come through pushing the envelope, reaching for bigger and better goals and failing along the way. Maxwell says, “Failing Forward is the ability to get back up after you’ve been knocked down, learn from your mistakes and move forward in a better direction.”

Where do you stand on failing forward? In the comments below, please share a time or two when you or someone you managed “failed forward” and actually improved their performance and/or the performance of the company after a big mistake.

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