I was recently asked by a reporter to share three key pieces of advice in regard to how small business owners can best deal with failure like a new product that flopped or an employee that did not work out. The advice I shared is as follows.
First, realize that failure is a critical part of the learning process. When you succeed, you tend to repeat your actions. You don’t change. You don’t think about it. You don’t try to improve – you just do the same thing over and over. Failure allows us to improve. Failure forces us to think about what we did and to learn from that experience. Each failure has within it seeds allowing us the opportunity to become a better decision maker. All people need failure to improve. It is the way we learn.
Second, you must separate the failure of a project from failure as an individual. Just because the project or the employee was a failure, it does not mean that you are a failure. There must always be a separation between the event that did not work out and the personal sense of worth. The difference can be summarized in ‘It Failed’ verses ‘I Failed’
Finally, realize that you cannot control everything. We constantly strive toward perfection. We want to be perfect. But the world does not work that way. We cannot control the lives and decisions of our employees just as we cannot control competition or the economy. It is important to remain humble in our approach to the world and realize that things will happen that are out of our control. All we can control is how we react.
Colin Powell probably said it best when he said – “There is no secret to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”