Fail early, often and safely
4 February 2022
As leaders, especially in new territory, many of us spend a lot of effort trying not to fail.
It is a natural reaction. We don’t want to look bad in front of our employees by making a mistake that can cost the company money and send people in the wrong direction.
But there are two significant drawbacks to putting effort into trying not to fail. The first is that because leaders have a lot of influence over the business culture and employee behavior, setting the example of trying not to fail signals that failure isn’t acceptable.
Failure is necessary to learn, and first-time success is a lousy teacher. If your employees are conditioned to avoid failure, they will have a difficult time learning, and they will spend a lot of time and energy either not taking chances or justifying results that don’t succeed.
The second drawback is that you will not learn as much – if at all – when you try to ensure that you don’t make mistakes.
Instead, practice making small bets, so that you fail early, often, and safely. Imagine being an example to your employees like this: “I took my best educated guess and it didn’t work, but I learned from it, and because it was a small bet, the knowledge I gained is much more valuable than the cost of the mistake.”
Now you can move forward, and your employees can do the same.
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