There’s a fantastic recent article from Strategy & Business on the 10 Principles of Strategic Leadership in a recent issue of the Coaching & Mediation Weekly. The principles are all excellent – and the article is well worth a read in full, as is our second article covering Google’s take on what makes a great team.
One of the 10 principles that leapt out at me was that of “Making it safe to fail”. This principle highlights the difference between what many an organisation says it does when failure comes – and what it really does.
A business may say it encourages innovation and risk, for example, but when creativity fails or a bold decision turns sour, the recriminations can begin quickly. This “skin-deep” attitude to failure can be one root cause of the workplace conflict and mistrust which Sheridan Resolutions is called in to resolve in its work.
True “safe to fail” principles need to be enshrined in practices and processes. This means a recognition that failures are better thought of as staging posts on the way to success. It is imperative to recover from any failure and find the courage to try again.
Our lead feature therefore looks at businesses that have learnt how to fail. Honda, for example, once had to recall about 8.5 million vehicles (to date) over a faulty airbag. The company’s leaders eventually had to acknowledge that the airbag failure was not of itself the problem. Rather, it was an inability to acknowledge and accept the failure at an early stage, when it could have been much more easily corrected. As one executive said: “We forgot that failure is never an acceptable outcome … it is the means to acceptable outcomes.”
Only if leaders can accept failure in reality as well as in rhetoric can they hope to make much better decisions.