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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

The First Step Toward Team Success is Understanding Failure

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

Helping your team embrace failure is essential to building dynamic and successful teams.

It feels a bit weird to say yes, doesn’t it?

Human nature makes us want to shy away from failure. In business, we often have a hard time separating failure of a project from feeling like a failure ourselves.

When you are leading teams, accepting, even welcoming failure can energize creativity and innovation. One way to teach your team to use failure to their advantage is outlined in

the great book Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dale Evans.

Their approach to failure is that it is a normal and necessary part of life and leaders need to guide their teams to use failure in order to achieve.

“ can’t fail, you can only be making progress and learning from the different kinds of experiences that failure and success both have to offer.”

Burnett and Evans suggest the following process to make this happen:

1. Log your failures: Keep track of them. Don’t ignore them or push them under the rug.

2. Categorize your failures: They offer 3 categories.

Screwups: This type of mistake is not part of any pattern. It just happens. There is not much to learn as it will most likely not happen again.

Weaknesses: It may be the type of “failure” that could be changed, but may not interfere with productivity. For example, procrastinating on completing paperwork which creates stress for your team is something for you to personally work on, but may not have learning opportunities for your team.

Growth Opportunities: These are the failures that are identifiable and fixable. There are lessons to learn that will make you and your company better.

3. Identify Growth Opportunities: Working with your team to answer the following questions can turn the “failure” lemons into lemonade.

  1. Do any of the growth opportunity failures offer an invitation for real improvement?

  2. What is there to learn?

  3. What could be done differently?

Accepting, even welcoming, failure as a necessary and useful part of your company’s culture energizes teams to innovate, support each other and decreases stress for everyone.

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