Handling failures appropriately

Failure was never viewed as a good thing when I was growing up and for good reason.  Failure is often associated with the complete opposite of success.  As I progressed further into my career, I realized failures can be positive.  The best managers I have had accepted failures as long as the failures were handled appropriately.  One way to handle a failure appropriately is to plan for the failure by having a backup plan.  This will show your manager that you are thinking ahead and planning for the future.

Secondly, you will want to fail fast and not delay the failure until it is too late.  Perhaps you are inventing a new product and want to take it to production, which can cost millions of dollars.  Before you get to this point, you will want to trial your product to understand its capabilities.  If your idea is going to fail, make sure it fails before it is too late.  You need to think of what sorts of things will happen if your product fails on the market.  It will be difficult to regain the trust of your customers once they have used your product and found out it does not work.  A failure on the market can end up costing you a significant amount of money, which can jeopardize your company’s future.  Failing fast allows you to minimize risks associated with failure.

Next, you want to learn from your failures.  A failure that teaches you absolutely nothing would truly be a failure.  A failure that teaches you something, is another piece to the puzzle in getting you closer to success.  I would also add, if you can learn from other’s failures, you should take the opportunity to do so.  This is why many companies have share-out programs once a project is complete.  The lessons learned can be crucial to pushing the next project through faster and with greater success.

Lastly, do not be ashamed of failure.  A while back while working at my father and my shop, I was tapping a hole and ended up breaking the tap.  For reference, a tap is a tool to thread a hole, so you can screw a bolt into it.  I was a bit annoyed with myself when I broke the tap because it took a while to remove the remaining tap stuck in the hole.  My dad told me this story that stuck out in my head until this day.

While my dad lived in Canada he was working for a company called Libby’s.  He was drilling and tapping over 100 holes on a machine and ended up breaking a few taps.  Another worker made fun of my dad because my dad was breaking taps.  My dad asked how many taps the guy broke and the guy said, “none”.  The reason the guy broke “none” is because he did not even drill and tap one hole.  Without broken taps, the job would not have been done.  It is just the cost of business.  We need to expect failures, but need to handle them appropriately.

Key takeaways

  • Have a backup plan for potential failures
  • Fail fast when the stakes are not as high
  • Learn from your failures
  • Do not feel ashamed of your failures

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