Do you fear failure? Do you know people who say things like “I never fail, I only learn”? Well, I respect where they’re coming from, and I also know that language controls communications and controls our thoughts. It is not only a tad hypocritical to say that we never fail, it actually causes us to engage in dysfunctional behaviours. Failure is real. There is no point dismissing it simply because we can’t face it, or, rather, the consequences thereof. It is like saying that we have no fear. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It is no shame to be fearful, it is how we respond to that fear that counts. By the same token, it is not failure which is fatal but the unreasonable fear of failure.
Let’s be clear. No one wants to fail. That is why I take great exception to statements like “You should encourage your people to fail, but to fail forward.” What on earth is that? No, you should encourage your people to experiment and take prudent risk! Otherwise, what are you encouraging them to do when you tell them to “Please fail as much as you can”? Yes, I’m sure you know what you mean. I’m also sure your people know what you mean at the time you tell it to them. You can be sure, though, that as time passes, people will forget what you meant and just remember what you said. What your people remember will definitely inform their actions because people tend to get stressed and when people get stressed the Philosophy of Convenience takes over! They’ll just remember what they thought they heard and forget all the rest of it! Now you know why leaders are paid more? It’s because leaders have to take the time and effort to articulate and re-articulate visions, missions, goals, etc, and they have to do it while trying to figure out what will stick best in the heads of their people! So, straighten out your socks and do up your bootlaces where language is concerned! Do not be afraid to fail, but do not encourage it either!