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Not Succeeding is Not Failure

Dec 2, 2015 | Growth | 4 comments

Failure is not defined as “not succeeding.” Failure is really just not learning from the results.

No matter what success may look like on the outside, no one lives a charmed life. There’s never been a successful person who hasn’t faced challenges and, as any of them could attest, many of those challenges resulted in not-so-great results. In fact, to the untrained eye, many results look like failure.

Failure is not defined as “not succeeding.” Failure is really just not learning from the results. Click To Tweet

There are four things you can do to help turn any challenge into a success:

  1. Respond don’t react
  2. Pause for thought
  3. Recognize the possibilities
  4. Take action

Respond Don’t React

To create success when there is a challenge, you have to do more than just spin-doctor a problem. You must implement the best possible solutions. Determining that solution isn’t an instant process, but you will often have to address the challenge publicly before you’re ready to take action.

No matter what the crisis is, it’s important to respond rather than react. Reacting is allowing the situation to control you, and responding is allowing your integrity and the appropriate expertise to control you.

George W. Bush responded, rather than reacted, to the events of 9/11. While some were frustrated that the U.S. didn’t immediately declare war and launch a physical attack, there was great wisdom in his approach. You can respond well, too, by doing these three things:

  1. Acknowledge the situation
  2. Address those concerned with the appropriate gravity
  3. Assure them that you are working on determining and implementing the best possible solution
  4. Implement those solutions

Pause for Thought

The results, as horrible as they may be, aren’t the problem. The problem is what caused the results.

Once you have responded to those who are concerned, the next step is to pause for thought. It’s important to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What really happened here?
  • Was this a processes and systems failure?
  • Do we have the right people in the wrong spots (or vice versa)?
  • Is this the result of wrong timing, wrong market or something else?

Talk to other team members to gather their thoughts, too, and be sure to also talk to people who aren’t your direct reports. The broader picture will be helpful in the next step.

Once you determine the root cause is, your task is two-fold. First, you need to go back and begin to fix the root of the problem. And second, you need to address the fall-out created.

Possibility Thinking

The next step is to begin to examine all the possible actions you can take. I think virtually all successful people are possibility thinkers. Whether it’s a natural habit or something that is purposefully developed, it’s important to recognize a variety of solutions, and then decide the best course of action; rather than come up with an idea, implement it and hope for the best. All successful people are possibility thinkers. Click To Tweet

In addition to creativity, there are two crucial components to possibility thinking: a positive mindset and patience. To be a possibility thinker you must have a positive attitude (believe that several options exist) and you also must be willing to delay action until you’re sure you’ve come up with the best possible solution.

If your team is unfamiliar with possibility thinking, simply instruct them that you’re going to have a brainstorming session. During the session, tell them that the rule in the conference room will be that “No idea is too ridiculous,” and talk about all of the possibilities.

By consistently requiring possibility thinking from your team and then creating strong, strategic responses, you can begin to make possibility thinking a more organic part of your culture.

And… Action

Of course, while it’s important to be patient enough to determine the best possible solutions, it’s just as important to take action.  To promise action, and not deliver, is a blow to both integrity and credibility. To promise action, and not deliver, is a blow to both integrity and credibility. Click To Tweet

Having a strong and balanced leadership team is definitely a key to success. And when following these four steps when faced with a challenge, you and your team can turn anything that looks like a failure into a success.

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