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Who’s Afraid of the Failure Crocodile?

“If you want to succeed, double your failure rate”- Thomas J. Watson

We tend to look at failure like a hungry crocodile; dangerous, destructive, and something to avoid at all costs! But…embracing failure can become your business’s competitive advantage. Build a culture that celebrates mistakes! If you’re never failing, you’re probably never really winning either.

Use failure to set the foundation for how you approach everything you do.

If you are daintily tip-toeing around the Failure Crocodile and find everything you do is working, well, then you most certainly aren’t taking enough risks. And probably in that zone which is even more dangerous than the Failure Croc, “the comfort zone”. This means that even if you’re achieving small wins every day and everything is looking great, you aren’t challenging yourself to achieve big wins that will set you apart in a meaningful way and get your company ahead of the competition.

Plus, not tampering with the Failure Croc means you probably aren’t learning much more than what you already know.

It’s also important to come to terms with the fact that we don’t know everything. It’s why we should always seek out new perspectives that challenge our assumptions and use data to inform our gut feelings. We’ll make better decisions for the business when we involve everyone and they are all empowered to bring their unique perspective to the table. Especially when that means people disagree! The whole team should know that a bite from the Failure Croc isn’t the end of the world. Most often than not, it’s what the company needs!

It’s much easier to talk about embracing the Failure Croc than it is to actually go up and give it a cuddle!

But highlighting these moments when they happen helps ensure this mindset becomes an active part of the culture you’re building.

Cuddling a croc might sound totally weird and terrifying to some, but just follow these conditions to ensure you are going about it the right way:

  • First, it should start from the top. If members of the team see their bosses talking about failure, they’ll be more likely to feel like they can, too.
  • Second, it should happen often. Make good friends with the Failure Croc and forget waiting for the “right time” to have a tough conversation. Just do it!
  • Third, it should be delivered thoughtfully and one-on-one, initially. It’s not about how you prefer to deliver feedback, but how that person will receive it in a way that’s beneficial to them.
  • Fourth, it should be framed as a benefit for the company and be communicated as such. Again, the team should know that the Failure Croc is one of the companies best buddies.

It really starts at the top.

A culture cannot be defined by one person so it’s important that a company’s leadership actually embrace the benefits of failure to drive whether or not this mindset is actually adopted.

As a leader, I should share my experiences with the Failure Croc in order to set the expectation with my team that they can feel comfortable doing the same and to show them how these moments can make us stronger. Lead by example by having regular, open conversations when mistakes happen to keep a no-pressure dialogue about the reality of mistakes. Occasional slip-ups with the Failure Croc are a guaranteed outcome of trying something new and a good signal that you’re rightly pushing some boundaries, so it’s better to practice resilience and be good at problem-solving than trying to fight failing.

Ultimately, your life and your career are made up of many small, but innately important choices: some of them will be the right ones, and some of them won’t be. This is how we learn. Keeping this in mind can help to ensure that you maintain the necessary perspective and don’t view every failure as a major setback, but just a helpful piece of the bigger picture.

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