Shifting your focus from perfection to honesty is the new way to win hearts at the workplace today. Yet, rarely anyone is celebrating this change because talking about failure as a leader is still underrated. 

As a leader, it has become a set norm to talk about success, highlight the glorious achievements and, to keep the team spirit high. Little do we realize the impact of these fancy talks. 

A study suggests that 92% of people fail to achieve their goals every year, hence proving that there is only a thin percentage of people who can relate to your accomplishments. 

If you are hesitating to share your failures or the struggles to be where you are today, your success story is incomplete. As Arianna Huffington rightly shares, failure is not the opposite of success. It is a part of success. 

Talking about failure as a leader sparks an emotional connection with the broader audience. It makes our journey more believable and offers a refreshing perspective on our personality as a leader. The challenge is, how do you talk about the pains without having negative consequences or making your team doubt your potential.

Tell them failure is growth. 

Winners are always focused on what they can do. Losers are aware of what they can not and continuously challenge themselves towards growth. When your team fails to achieve a sales target or launches a product successfully, give them a chance, and encourage the team to look deeper into opportunities. Give relatable examples from your personal life and take them through your journey and what actions you took to change the situation. 

Everyone talks highly of Bill Gates, who is a multi-billionaire, and became successful after founding Traf-O-Data first and Microsoft later. Had it not been for his belief in seeing opportunities in computer science, today the world would not have an innovative computer software such as Microsoft.  

Failure teaches us how we see ourselves.

Replace perfection with self-reflection at your workplace. It is unrealistic to expect your team to be as good as the competitor that supposedly performs better than yours. When you stop comparing yourself to others, your tribe will follow your footsteps and deliver exceptional performance. Let that failure motivate you to bring the change in you and your organization. Let failure give your team a sense of direction and be the purpose to self-evaluate your growth.  

Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison before becoming the President of South Africa, said, “Do not judge me by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell and got back up again.” 

Embrace uncertainty as to the new normal.

2020 has been the most unprecedented year with the worldwide economic crash and, many businesses have experienced failures in one way or the other. Despite this hardship, life continues to go on as we embrace ‘the new normal’, accepting lifestyle changes from wearing a mask as we step out, putting up an office set-up at home, and shopping groceries from our mobile phone.  

Uncertainty and failures at your workplace should be of no surprise. Just like good news and profits, mentor your team to expect downfalls and motivate them to consider these as the ‘new normal’, pull up their socks and, strategize innovative solutions. Who knew hand-sanitizers, tissue papers, and Zoom calls would be top priorities during a global crisis.  Embrace the fact that in this world, change is the only constant. 

Ask; ”What are you doing about the failures?’’

By being a compassionate leader, mentor, or senior, the goal is not to make your followers or team feel comfortable at losing. The wounds of failing may be painful. However, as a leader, your role is to boost morale instead of blaming your team for underperforming. Implement practices to perform better. Offer essential resources and be that source of hope to help them rise above the fear of failing.

Empower your team by asking questions on their action plan after facing failures. Share inspirational stories of leaders such as Richard Branson, who launched 400 companies before founding ‘The Virgin Galactic’ or Thomas Edison, who worked on close to 10,000 prototypes before succeeding to introduce an electric bulb.  

Failure is not a negative experience.

In so many organizations today, departments that fail are negatively tagged. Viewed from a micro perspective, failure at work is so fragile that it can easily create a negative impression within seconds. Whether someone arrives late at work, misses to add some statistics for a sales pitch, or is underdressed, small failures highlight the inabilities at large and undermine the value as a human resource. 

Despite knowing that death was knocking on his door and facing failures, Steve Jobs never forsook his dreams to innovate his tech company – Apple. In 2005, he gave a speech in which he said, “Death was the single best invention in life.”

Implement the culture of transparency.

No one likes to admit their failures. As a leader, you could make that change by talking about your experiences and attitude with experiences that are not easy to confess. Let your team not feel uncomfortable. Give them that chance to laugh. Impress them with your honesty. Feel proud to be that Manager or Director who your employees can talk to with confidence, even when something goes wrong. 

According to research conducted by the Harvard Business Review, 71 % of leaders rank employee engagement is crucial to achieving overall organizational success. 

Failure does not define you.

People remember brands that succeed and, customers do not define their lives by continually talking about brands that failed. Similarly, it is imperative as a leader to assure your team or followers that failure is not permanent and does not define the destiny of the organization. Failure is an event and not a lifelong sentence. 

In the end, it is imperative to remember and share that every failure is a lesson. If you are not willing to fail, you are not ready to succeed.