How to Embrace Failure and Make It Work In Your Favor

We all know failure isn’t the end of the world, but it is not easy to embrace. Without clear thinking, fear of failure and failure itself can undermine our leadership styles, performance, judgment and even our happiness. According to one study, workers who feel unsupported not only face higher anxiety, but also experience lower performance. Here are three tips for embracing fear and failure and getting value from them this week:

1. Use fear to focus but don’t let it become your focus
Fear is a powerful sensation; it can be a great asset or hold you back.  Use it as an alert system: it signals where you need to put attention, loose ends that need to tie out, or weakness in your plan or product. Once you’ve gotten the signal, focus on it directly and let go of the uncomfortable sensation. This week try listening to fear as a source of wisdom, then write down the signal and your response plan to address whatever triggered it. Does prompt attention to the signal relieve the stressful aspect, clear your mind and catalyze you forward?

2.  Let the team fail to increase its success
Teams that fear failure and its consequence deliver mediocre results over time.  This happens because they work and are rewarded for predictable outcomes and not for reaching beyond certainty toward possibility — how do you react when they fall short? To empower your team to achieve beyond expectations, create a regular vocabulary and process for defining committed outcomes and stretch objectives week over week. A recognition system that celebrates achievement of commit goals and the stretch even when the goal is not achieved will inspire your team to go beyond predictable to impressive results.

3.  Consider your failures beginnings rather than endings
Failure is as inevitable as death and taxes, and can make us just as uncomfortable! But each failure opens new doors and presents new data. Instead of getting stuck on the failure itself, focus your attention on the data that came with it and the new door opened. Consider 5 past failures: what did you learn – could you be where you are now without them?  You’ve probably learned more from failure than any other source of wisdom. Rather than feeling dread and discomfort, embrace failure’s value as a teacher, get curious about the data it offers, and open to where it leads you next. (You may even find you fail less when you don’t fear it.)

I hope this helps you build velocity.  Be fearless this week!

P.S.  If you’re putting these tips to work this week, capture your plan of action and the teams’ commit and stretch goals in Workboard.  It will be easier to communicate, track from staff meeting to meeting, execute plans and recognize great performance.

Tips To Bring Creativity To Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement: individual’s investment of wisdom, skills, energies, creativity and time in the work assigned.

This is No. 4 of 5 articles exploring specifics of employee engagement. We’ve examined WisdomSkills and Energies. Let’s look at Creativity, a talent every individual can engage in unlimited ways.

What Creativity Means (Definition)

Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and inspiration. For business, creativity is not “fine arts.” It is the ability to look at standard ways of doing things and standard things produced, and to see something different. That novel thinking is creativity. Every business needs it to continue progressing.

What Creativity Brings (Value)

Employees’ creativity brings value to the workplace.

Innovation. If creativity generates ideas, innovation puts those ideas to work. Innovation includes analyzing, designing, developing, implementing and evaluating the practical output of creativity. Innovation proves creativity is valuable. The business that wants plenty of employee engagement encourages plenty of creative output. The business that wants maximum “return on creativity” applies process and procedure that turn creativity into innovation.

Motivation. Creativity that is recognized motivates individuals to produce more creativity: to think and see and hear and imagine in new, different ways. Frequent, sincere and public idea celebration pushes employees to keep producing them. Here’s a caveat: encouraging only “good” ideas has a limiting effect. Insistence on judging ideas before sharing them automatically cuts their free-flow. Quality is found before quantity in the dictionary, but not when it comes to finding valuable ideas.

Inspiration. Inspiration pulls from inside (motivation pushes from outside). Inspiration lures an individual to exert her creative efforts, to share his creative ideas, to explore what’s unknown, knowing that’s where the good is found. Inspiration comes from excitement of feeling the brainstorm, seeing the light bulb flash, experiencing novelty’s rush. Inspiration comes from confidence that creative effort produces valuable results. Coming up with a new idea fuels the desire for another new idea. And another and another.

How to Bring Creativity On (Actions)

Opportunities. The business that induces creativity is sure to have higher levels of employee engagement. Opportunities to appreciate creativity, to experiment creatively, and to enjoy creative freedoms provide such inducement. Recognize the wide range opportunities to break away from same ol’, same ol’ thinking, opportunities that appeared at the start of the digital wave. Creative areas present inside and outside the building. Many creative tools—pads, markers, toys—stimulate imagination. Emphasize collaborative conversation (rather than always only reporting-to-the-manager).

Celebrations. Celebrating all creative activity (not just “success”) is a great first step to teaching creativity. Recognizing new ideas and celebrating their abundance is critical. Keep in mind: the more raw number of ideas, the more creatively “good” ideas among them. Encourage profusion. The celebration of new ideas can be an ordinary action; I’ve known managers who had “New Idea Share” as a regular agenda item for every meeting. The celebration of great ideas can have plenty of hoopla; I’ve known managers who featured “Creativity That Worked” events in which successful innovations were celebrated with plenty of fanfare.

Culture Vibes. How creative is your corporate culture? Are the freedoms to be creative, to test one’s creativity, to speak up and share creative thinking inherent parts of your organization’s personality? To be a vibrant part of your culture, the opportunity and enthusiasm for creativity must be prevalent. It is possible for an element of culture to be part of the norm and to receive ample attention. It’s up to leadership and management to see that creativity doesn’t become so taken for granted that it becomes an “unconscious competence” and loses its power.

Creativity holds a key role in the formula for Employee Engagement. It coordinates with WisdomSkills and Energies. The final component — Time — will be explored in our 5th of 5 articles.

About the Author: Tim Wright is professional speaker/coach/facilitator with expertise in employee engagement and culture improvement.

photo credit: Light bulbs via photopin (license)