A key strategy for leading change is to empower others to take initiative to support an organization’s change vision and goals. And one of the most important ways a leader can accomplish this is by creating a climate where it is safe to make mistakes.
As we all know, one of the side effects of innovation is failure. You can’t be part of major change efforts without taking risks, and not all risks work out. How we as leaders deal with failure is critical to creating an environment that fosters innovation.
There’s a new trend among some creative companies – the “Heroic Failure Award.” This award is given an honored place along with the more typical recognition for success. The Wall Street Journal quoted an executive from one of these companies who believed that “if employees try something that was worth trying and fail, and if they are open about it, and if they learn from that failure, that is a good thing.” (Read the article here.)
A contributor to the Harvard Business Review blog made the case for failure even more strongly in a post on “Why I Hire People Who Fail“:
We don’t just encourage risk taking at our offices: we demand failure. If you’re not failing every now and then, you’re probably not advancing. Mistakes are the predecessors to both innovation and success, so it is important to celebrate mistakes as a central component of any culture.
Most of us have a hard time celebrating failure – our own or others’. This mindset may be holding us back from creating the kind of new and innovative solutions we need to address tomorrow’s challenges.
Can you identify a time when you tried something new, failed, and learned from it?
How do you typically respond to employees or colleagues who have failed?
Dee Anne Bonebright