Making it easier to do great work. Hacking all things stupid.

Failing Forward: Five Very Difficult Truths

Most common challenge for most leaders:
We have met the enemy and he is us.

So, I’m doing a webinar on
How to Lead, Work and
Manage in a Disruptive
About 50 attendees.
All senior executives from all
around the globe, most
reporting directly into the

So, I’m doing a webinar on How to Lead, Work and Manage in a Disruptive World. About 50 attendees. All senior executives from all around the globe, most reporting directly into the C-suite.

As I’m discussing the need to speak up, ask tough questions and be willing to fail forward, one of the executives asks “How do we get the CEO and his team to accept this? Can we change them from the bottom up?”

I’m thinking (but didn’t say): “Really? You got to this point in your career and in your company and you’re STILL asking for ‘them’ (anyone but oneself) to make it safe for you to fail and to speak up? Really?”

This kind of question is not uncommon. I hear it most every keynote I give, most every workshop I do. Time to address it with some basic truths.

TRUTH 1:Yes, it is easier and better for all if the senior team “gets” it.

All people should be empowered. All leaders should make it easier to speak the truth to power. All leaders should create a culture where everyone has the right and freedom and responsibility to fail forward — where failures are celebrated as the best/shortest path to innovation, creativity and true success.

TRUTH 2:For most of us — ain’t gonna happen!At least not as quickly or easily as we would like.

There is no accurate study on how many leaders “get” all that and behave accordingly, and how many don’t. But all the supporting studies (e.g., Globally, only 13% of all employees are engaged, while 63% are disengaged) have been trending the same way for decades. Yes, there are wonderful, amazing executives who have led the way on these issues — (see Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work For) — but, statistically, most of us will not experience that bliss from above.

TRUTH 3:That means you face a choice:
A) Be a Wendy Whiner
B) Be the change you want to see

If you choose A), please…at least have the integrity to declare that! Wear a Scarlet WW name badge that declares “Only hang with me if you love finger-pointing and hate taking accountability.”If you choose B), accept that you WILL get dinged and negative feedback and knocked down on occasion. Fact of life. Sticking your neck out means that WILL happen sometimes.

TRUTH 4:Urban Myth Debunked:People don’t get fired for speaking up or screwing up.

(Unless it’s a super huge, really bad screw up! People do get fired for those!)
Most everyone who has chosen A) states that their reason is because people get fired for speaking up, asking tough questions and being willing to fail forward. While there may be isolated instances of that, statistically you have about as much chance of getting fired as being hit by lightning. Again, people do get dinged and do get the occasional hairy eyeball and do suffer the occasional demotion to Work Purgatory. But, if one wanted to cite fear, let’s be honest about naming it: Fear of looking bad. Fear of being perceived poorly. Which no one ones but that individual.

TRUTH 5:The choice about whether to speak up, ask tough questions and to fail forward is yours — yours alone.

Regardless of what those above you do or don’t do, the responsibility for what you will do next is yours, not theirs. If you choose to speak up, etc, accept that sometimes you’ll get dinged and be OK with that. If you choose to wish that “they” would lead differently and “they” would “get it,” please accept whatever happens next graciously, respectfully and quietly.

TOOLS:If you’d like some Getting Started Tips: Check out Click, the free How-to Addendum to Disrupt! Think Epic. Be well as these (cheap) tools:Managing Your Manager, How to Say No and Get Ahead,and How to Work Smarter by Asking the Right Questions.

CATEGORIES: Failure, Innovation

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on LinkedIn0

One thought on “Failing Forward: Five Very Difficult Truths

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Us/Like Us on