At Rackspace, we take on a more positive outlook when it comes to the term. I recently sat down with Paul Tomes, Director of Fanatical Support, to learn more. Paul, my former Director, always encouraged us to try new things, and that failing was ok. In fact, he encouraged it! That’s right, he encouraged failure. If you don’t try, you can’t grow; and if growth is what you seek, failing is inevitable. But let’s dig past the surface and approach it critically…
The Philosophy behind the term:
“Failure encompasses more than a mistake”, Paul says. “Society tells us all the time that it’s not ok to fail. Did I fat finger my code or make a customer angry?” These can be mistakes, but are ok because we can learn from them and not make the same mistake again.
Paul says: “Mistakes and failures must be differentiated. Failure can result from trying something new, or taking on an initiative to solve a greater problem.” There are undoubtedly different levels of failure, and different perspectives.“If you’re running a 100 meter dash, and your time is slower than that of a gold medal winner, does it mean you failed? No. When the Beatles got turned down by their first record label, who failed, the Beatles or the label?”
Paul goes on to say that “Recovery from failing is what is most crucial. Did you learn? Did you run before you could walk? Or did you quit, because you got stung?”
Environment is crucial!!
“Lack of understanding of environment will lead to rampant misuse of the word. There must be encouragement to try and it’s ok if you try and it doesn’t work. An environment where you can’t fail creates fear.
“A child learning to walk is a great example. They don’t fall over, but never attempt to walk again. You have to let them fall. This is a form of failure. You hug them, encourage them to get up, brush it off. But what’s most important is that you’re creating an environment where they’re comfortable to try, again and again”.
Failure from a Leadership Perspective:
Paul looks at the whole situation: timing, capacity and understanding from all sides. It’s important that the team understands this philosophy: if you don’t try, you can’t grow. Some teams don’t create environments where failure is “safe.” Paul feels that this is largely due to leaders worrying about how failure by their teams maybe viewed by others. Junior leadership in particular are susceptible to this trap, because they are worried about being seen as failures right off the bat.
It’s recommended that leaders take a more positive stance on failure. There needs to be an understanding all the way to the top of the organization. After all, if leaders can’t fail, then their teams can’t fail.
Can you relate? How does your organization deal with failures?
Category: Rackers Tags: Core Values, Fanatical Support, Leadership, Working at Rackspace