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Talking about failure in your company can feel awkward at best. Companies are built on winning. On beating expectations. Being right.

But why should companies talk about failure? In a study released in early 2017, companies that let employees know that failing on a task or a project was ok led to increased sales and productivity. Responding to failure can help create confidence in your culture. Which can lead to more positive thinking. Which can lead to new ideas. Which can lead to positive results for your company.

Which creates – success.

Leaders should pay more attention to helping employees respond to failure – not to the failure itself. Creating a culture where employees learn from mistakes, and where failure and constructive feedback are part of the journey in learning and growing as leaders and as individuals. This doesn’t mean we need to accept laziness, poor decision making, etc. But failure in an organization can be designed well by:

Creating experiments

Companies that fail well do so through a thoughtful process. They use stretch assignments to test new ideas and discover what works best. Stretch assignments are projects, initiatives, or goals that may not ultimately reach the objective. Before the stretch assignments start, the company asks the right questions to understand what success looks like, and predict potential obstacles and challenges.

Communicating openly

In an organization, or just in our daily lives, it’s more common to see recognition and praise for others’ accomplishments. We can easily “like” something through social media or acknowledge a job well done. Communicating openly means organizations share when it’s failed and that it’s still failing – not only the successes or wins that happened after the failure.

Asking for feedback

As an individual, you can be your own worst enemy. Mistakes happen. Things break. Employees don’t need to know when they’ve failed; they already know. But employers need to create the conversation for employees to ask and receive for the right feedback. Instead of asking, “How am I doing?” employees should ask, “What’s one thing I can do better?” And by supporting conversations that allow for both praise and criticism, managers can provide more specific feedback to the employee.

Prioritizing learning

Companies can say that they accept failure – but only by formalizing it through training and development initiatives will you see the movement you desire. This can mean that managers make time for feedback and frequent 1:1s, as well as ensuring employees follow through with development activities within and outside the organization.

Designing failure in your company can feel counter-intuitive. But by designing it the right way, companies can actually support employees in figuring out how to own, learn, and ultimately create success from their mistakes.

Find out more helpful information, including Mike’s latest book The Success of Failure or his firm, Bensi & Company, here.

Mike Bensi
Mike Bensi
Mike Bensi helps companies utilize their culture as a powerful differentiator and competitive advantage to help their business grow. He is the Founder of Bensi & Company, a consulting and coaching firm focused on creating healthier ways to work for organizations and leaders. Mike is also a well-known speaker on employee engagement, culture, and leadership, and is the author of the book The Success of Failure.

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