Benjamin Zander, English Conductor and Musical Director of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, suggests that when you make a mistake, or the people you are working with make a mistake, simply say, ‘How fascinating’. By doing this you remove the power of the failure to impact negatively on the opportunity for learning. So next time you miss your budget or your deadline, say, ‘How Fascinating’. Why not?
Failure is part of success. If you fail, do it quickly, and more importantly, learn quickly. Fail fast, learn fast. You never lose; you either win or you learn. You need to fail in order to succeed in your digital transformation.
There are big differences in cultures. In the US failing is more commonly accepted, while in other parts of the world, such as Europe, failing is still not truly seen as part of success. But this is changing, and the start-up movement has bootstrapped the evolution of failure being part of success.
If you fail in business or life never lay blame on others. Remember it’s not them, we, I; it is always I first: ‘I could have done this better’; ‘I should have been on hand’; ‘I’ve done this positively’. Then it’s ‘We collectively could have done this’, and then we start talking about them. We don’t talk about the person who didn’t do his role or didn’t do what we expected because that’s the easy part. We get much more energy out of a discussion when blame isn’t apportioned.
The CEO of Lego, when evaluating people or leaders who didn’t meet their goals, didn’t blame them for failing. He blamed them for failing to ask for help and others for failing to give help.
Tintin Snack: I-we-them rule when explaining bad times. During my personal journey I learned the best way to lead is to follow the ‘I-we-them’ rule when explaining bad times. Never start by blaming others for things that go wrong. Do some self-reflection, then look at your team, your partner, and then look at the things around you where you might not have had any control. Conversely, if things are successful, it’s is them, we, then I. Praise your team, your co-workers and then yourself.
We live in an era when nothing can be built to last. Everything is in flux; nothing can sustain. All products, services, markets, and even specific solutions to social problems eventually become obsolete.
When you’ve built an institution with values and a purpose beyond just making money – when you’ve built a culture that makes a distinctive contribution while delivering exceptional results – why would you capitulate to the forces of mediocrity and succumb to irrelevance? The best corporate leaders say, ‘We are responsible for our results!’ No law of nature dictates that a great institution must inevitably fall, at least not within a human lifetime.
The I-we-them rule never fails. And remember, at least you tried if you fail. Learn from it and know it is part of success.
Learn to fail successfully.