No one wants to fail. Failure reveals our inadequacies, incompetence or lack of ability. To fail makes us feel as if we are not smart enough, talented enough or capable. Not to mention, others may attempt to use our failures to show their superiority and our weakness.
As bad as failure can be, the fear of failure can be worse. For most people, it’s the one fear having the greatest impact on their lives. While the fear of failure does provide the mechanism to check risk and ensure safety, it can also prevent growth and development in our careers and work. Fear of failure keeps us from venturing out, accepting new responsibilities and hampers the pursuit of our goals and dreams.
As a long-time entrepreneur, here is what I have learned about failure. The more I achieve, the greater my success, the more my businesses grow; the more I experience failure. This means I experience failure on a regular basis.
- I hire a new employee, only to learn later it was the wrong hire and I'm faced with cleaning up issues;
- I hear from a customer who’s not happy with our company or our services due to a breakdown of our processes;
- I invest resources into a new venture, a new technology or a process to increase business. Later I find it didn’t work, meaning those resources are lost;
- I witness a business relationship that has become broken due to poor performance or conflicting personalities.
The point is this. Every successful business executive and entrepreneur will face failure on a regular and on-going basis. When failure does occur, here is how I have learned to respond:
Address and rectify failure.
I always handle the situation with the employee. I meet with the client and fix the problem. I exit the bad investment. I repair the fractured relationship. I take whatever actions necessary to move beyond the failure and correct the situation.
Communicate failures with others.
I talk openly about failures with my company, employees, colleagues, family, and friends. This not only helps to ease any stress from failure, but it makes the failure more pertinent. Communicating a failure also leads to a greater understanding of why the failure occurred in the first place and how it could have been prevented.
Don’t become afraid of failure.
I ensure one failure does not lead to a constricting fear of future failures. I know that only by taking risks, pursuing new initiatives or following my aspirations can my businesses grow. My colleagues and I realize we must continue to accept new and greater responsibilities to serve our customers. If we allow a fear of failure to stand above those decisions, then movement and growth within the business will stop. We, therefore, assess the failure, understand why it happened, then move on. We then use that knowledge to make good decisions and mitigate risk in the future.
I don’t welcome failure, I work hard to prevent it from happening. Failure, however, does occur, but so does success. For every bad hire, there are dozens of excellent hires that make us a better company. With one poor investment will come many others that provide excellent returns.
The more successful a company or an individual becomes, the more they will have to deal with failure. In recognizing this concept, we become better equipped and more capable of moving beyond failure to even greater success.
Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts and via his blog.