Sunday, April 3, 2011

Failing successfully

Failure is “rarely enjoyable when you're in the midst of it or dealing with the aftermath.”  Failure Is Failure.  The thought of failing may seem even more painful for in-house counsel, for whom perfection (or near perfection) is often expected from clients or might be self-imposed.  Yet occasional mistakes and failures are inevitable, even for the most conservative of counsel.  Indeed, clients often want their counsel to take risks that (by definition) may end badly.
With this in mind, take heed of the recent rash of business articles that provide perspective on how to fail the right way:
  • Failure is OK, just don’t fail at failure.  The premise is that the benefit of a failure is the “learning” that comes from it.  If valuable lessons are not learned (and you keep repeating what you did previously), then you are “failing at failing.”  See Adam Richardson's Failure Is Failure.
  • Failing Forward.  Another view on a successful failure: "when I look back I realize that every failure has moved me forward.  Every failure taught me a lesson and made me stronger, wiser and better.  I failed many times but I failed forward (I first heard this term from John Maxwell)."  See Jon Gordon's Failing Forward.
  • As a success strategy, try visualizing failure.  “Here's the irony: When you visualize failure, you're actually visualizing success.  You're watching yourself navigate, survive, and move through failure.  And that's an art that doesn't just help you succeed; it helps you live. Failure isn't just an annoying step on the way to success, it's as much a part of life as success.  Best to get used to it.  See Peter Bregman's Visualize Failure.
  • Fear of failure leads to missed opportunities.  "As humans, we fear failure. That affects our appetite to take risks.  We herd, follow others, miss opportunities to lead.  By not taking risk because of exposure to failure, we become less inventive."  See Ndubuisi Ekekwe's When Failure Hits.
  • Leaders Can Admit Failure.  "Dealing with failure is part of being a leader.  Rather than expend enormous energy to avoid it, you should build an organization that is resilient in the face of inevitable failures."  See Charlene Li's The Art of Admitting Failure.
  • Compliance-enabling cultures know how to embrace failure.  A corporate “culture that makes it safe to admit and report on failure can . . . coexist with high standards for performance.”  "The unfortunate consequence [of a corporate culture that instead focuses on blame] is that many failures go unreported and their lessons are lost."  See Amy C. Edmondson's Strategies for Learning from Failure.
 This summary was prepared by Perry Cone and posted at

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