An interesting question was posed during a presentation at a recent Value-Based Based Leadership workshop. We were having a lightning talk about Gofore values together with Daniella Pitaro, this is one of the talks we have with new employees on their first day. In this talk, we use a diagram titled “the circle of success”, which displays five dimensions we want to discover and strengthen in every Goforean.
“How do failures and weaknesses fit in this picture?”
As is the case with many rapidly growing organizations, discussing failures is not a recurring topic at Gofore. I believe that we have a healthy relationship with failures, but the way they relate to success requires an elongated answer. Failures are, after all, inevitable in all lines of work. It’s the way you handle them that defines, whether they break or empower you.
Be transparent about failures
Some of the most expensive mistakes are the ones you sweep under the carpet. In the 1970’s, Ford became aware of a fuel tank problem in their Pinto model, which increased the chance of a crashed vehicle catching fire. Instead of fixing the flaw, Ford concluded that the repairs would be more expensive than settlement lawsuits, and went with the faulty design. The result was a “voluntary” recall of 1.5 million vehicles, over one hundred lawsuits and a damaged reputation. Anecdotal as this example may be, being transparent about failures often yields faster and less expensive ways to remedy them, while refusing to act only prolongs the inevitable.
Be self-determined about your weaknesses
While self-reflection enables you to identify your weaknesses, self-determination is required to power any change. This means being proactive about your training needs, and independently keeping yourself up-to-date. Make a habit of managing a long-term learning plan for yourself, and you will have less risk of losing important opportunities due to competency gaps. As an organization, Gofore facilitates this by providing various coaching services to help you draft your own path. All our employees are expected to allocate 6% of their working time for self-development. On average, that’s over two hours every week our experts invest in themselves!
Nourish your sense of community
Transparent management of failures can be an important factor in building a better sense of community. Even in an organization of exceptional experts, it’s important to understand that nobody’s perfect. The possibility to fail without blame provides a learning opportunity and a crucial reminder for everyone that we are all human. An organization that effectively shares knowledge of mistakes, learns fast. A fast-learning organization still makes mistakes, but always closes the door on recurrence. Letting your community fear failures will only breed other negative phenomena. At worst, employees could contract the so-called impostor syndrome, where they attribute their success to luck, not merit.
Be enthusiastic for your own sake, and disciplined for everyone else’s
Everybody loves stories of exceptional individuals beating the odds. “The doctors told her she would never walk again”. “From selling dried fish to playing in the world cup”. After discounting factors like luck, medical quirks and good timing, the common denominator in this kind of story is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm can help you against crushing odds, but more commonly it powers the resolve you need to deal with everyday problems. While enthusiasm and resolve form a beneficial cycle together, weaknesses coupled with a lack of enthusiasm are a demoralizing combination.
To fulfil our promises to our customers, we need discipline and resolve. Many failures are a result of oversight or negligence, so the importance of doing things The Right Way™ all the time cannot be exaggerated. Saving the time span of four mouse clicks is reckless if you risk having to repair the damage for an hour. Only discipline is guaranteed to ultimately save both your time and the customer’s money. It yields greater customer satisfaction and better end results.
If the time allocated to our original lightning talk would have allowed it, we could have talked about failures in great depth. Now I’m left hoping my short answer was convincing enough: as a Goforean, you’re allowed to fail at things. You are, however, required to keep learning from your mistakes. A weakness is a true weakness only if you do nothing about it.