Getting Past A Fear of Failure For Faster Growth

Updated: Jan 29

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

-Winston Churchill

No one likes to fail, but growth and success is rarely a straight line. Most success comes after multiple failures.

If you are committed to growing your business, you need to think ahead and try new things. We all want to innovate and embrace failure as part of success, but our human nature also wants to be in control of our outcomes. We don’t want to make mistakes or experience loss.

While learning from failure is a good thing, the truth is, in some areas of our business, we must plan not to allow for mistakes. Certain types of mistakes or failures can be catastrophic.

Knowing where and how much failure we can take emotionally and in the organization will give us the freedom to take new risks. We need to make a distinction between where we allow for failure and where we cannot.

We see successful companies getting past a fear of failure by mapping out areas in which failing is acceptable. Then, you commit yourself to this map.

How do I know where I can fail and where I cannot?

1) Mark your “control towers”

Imagine working in a control tower. There is obviously no way to embrace failures here. Imagine an airport with 5000 landings and take-offs per month. a mistake rate of 0.01% would imply 5 crashes per month.

There are such “control towers” in every company. In some areas, even if a leader doesn’t care to admit it, failure is not an option. Being explicit about your “control towers” is crucial, if you want people to avoid these specific mistakes at all costs. Only then, everyone is on the same page: We give our best to prevent failure and if it happens, we report it.

In other areas, the expectation might not be as clear. We suggest three mechanisms: define roles, draw lines and install safety nets.

When defining roles, you assign to a specific group of employees the role of innovators. It is then clear to everyone that this group will generate ideas, try new things – and occasionally fail. Your “innovators” will enjoy the freedom to explore and develop new ideas. At the same time, they will be accountable for their failures as part of the process.

Drawing lines means, defining which parts of a project are open to experimentation and those that are not. Within the defined lines, failure is acceptable. Innovation is welcome.

Safety nets are a similar idea, on a different level. To limit the impact of failures, you innovate in specific areas, e.g. those that are not part of your core business.

In defining roles, drawing lines and installing safety nets, we map out areas in which failures are acceptable. Only then we can truly claim: We embrace failure. Feel free to innovate.

2) Have a backup plan

Leon Ho says that it never hurts to have a back-up plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” This old adage holds solid wisdom. Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could secure the funds? There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a back-up plan is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

Leon Ho (…)

3) Identify the consequences

Theo Tsaousides says that in order to attenuate fear of failure, first identify the consequences of failing that scare you the most and evaluate your ability to deal with these consequences. Instead of talking yourself out of the fear by hoping that nothing negative will happen, focus on building confidence to deal with the consequences.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Which of these consequences scare you the most?

-How much impact will they have on you? Are they merely unpleasant or life-threatening? Will

they just make you feel uncomfortable, or will they hurt you deeply and irreparably?

-How quickly will you move on? Are the consequences permanent or reversible? Are they short-lived, or will they linger forever?

-How well can you handle them? Can you exercise damage control, or will you hide and disappear?

Theo Tsaousides (…)

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge, it’s your turn: Tell us about YOUR experience in dealing with a Fear of Failure and check out one of our latest article on how to manage airtime!

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