Recently I have been having lots of talks with people about failure. Well this post by Kirk Weisler struck a chord. It was a completely different way of thinking about failure and making progress. He was working with a group of scientist and lab technicians when he had a revelation. We all make mistakes, even the best of us will trip and fall sometimes. When an employee makes a mistake we tend to get in an up roar and say stuff like “I can’t believe you did that”, “this is all jacked up now”, “Everything is ruined”. But, what about all the stuff that came before that? What about all the things they accomplished correctly up until that point?
In my days in the military there was something that always confused me. There would be a Special Operations Marine Raider who for over 10 years would be the most amazing Raider in the command. I’m talking about the kind of guy that has movies and books constantly made in his likeness. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has played this kind of guy in many movies. Silver Star with valor medals and many other awards. But after over a decade of serving his country and fighting wars on multiple battlefields he comes home to blow off some steam and gets a little too much off the path. This war hero gets in a fight and a video of it ends up on the internet. Now everyone including the command that gave him a silver star the week before is saying how horrible of a person this guy is and how he should be kicked out of the command. The public is saying how there shouldn’t be these types of guys in out military. How did one day this guy go from being the most loved and respected military professional at the top of his game and then the next second being the worst human to have ever lived?
Now, I understand that this is a bit more drastic than working in an office or lab but Its the perception I wanted to share. For us to truly lead from the front and master being the best leader we can be for our people then we have to have perspective of the larger picture. Just like in a lab, things are going to go wrong, beakers are going to get broken. But, They are always moving forward! They are in the constant pursuit of perfection even after one failure after another but they never quit, they never surrender, they constantly push forward.
How do we take that concept and apply the same thoughts on failure in our own daily life or in our teams? I think we have to look at everything like a journey. What we do at work with our employees is that of a journey. We might get lost, we might lose some gear, we even might lose a teammate along the way but we figure it out as a team and keep pushing forward insulating not isolating the ones who have that failure. Because, we did not forget what they accomplished yesterday and we want them to recover and accomplish great things tomorrow.
“This is everyone’s first time having a life experience. In laboratories there are no mistakes, there are only attempts during experiments, where we keep trying new things to find what works, and then what works best. Not everything we try will work, so we must learn to celebrate those who continue to experiment, who seek to improve and innovate. There is much more to focus on than the latest thing that may have gone wrong.” -Kirk Weisler