Volume 123, April 2013: Failure

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, 2013 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

To ignore or demean failure is to lose a great teacher. Know to expect it, take responsibility for it, learn from it, build competence to prevent the same failure from recurring, and move on.

A person who has not experienced failure has perhaps made brilliant decisions throughout his/her life – or perhaps he or she has lived in mediocrity, not pushing innovative boundaries or trying new ways of doing things. History is full of examples of leaders who have tried mightily and failed – but kept on trying. Here are just a few:

  • Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations
  • General Douglas McArthur’s Defense of the Philippines
  • Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam
  • The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

A failure is the perfect time for leaders to emerge and exhibit leadership. Lead a postmortem discussion to learn:

  • What happened?
  • What went right?
  • What went wrong?
  • What did we fail to anticipate?
  • How do we make it right or at least better?
  • What could have been done differently with hindsight?

It is important not to play the blame game, but to seek to learn and improve for the future, creating a culture in which planned innovation is expected, even if it may result in a failed attempt.

Practice Point

Reframe failure, and learn from it. There is an upside to everything. Construct a Cause and Effect Diagram and determine the root cause. Take responsibility as a leader of your organization, move it forward through failure to new victories.


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