Finding New Opportunites through Failure

“I haven’t failed; I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”  — [Thomas Edison]

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”  — [Sir Winston Churchill]

“Fear of failure is the only thing preventing you from succeeding.” — [Alison Levine]

“100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.”  — [Wayne Gretzky]

Today I would like to talk about the importance of failure in ensuring an organization’s long-term success.  Yes, failure!  I’m guessing you didn’t expect leadership to talk about the importance of failure as part of a weekly Leadership Quote segment.  But the truth is failure is a necessary component of success.  Through failure we learn important lessons necessary to achieve success.  We gain the wisdom needed to improve and become successful.

I’m sure most of you have heard of the vacuum cleaner brand Dyson.  The Dyson vacuum cleaner is one of the best performing products in its industry.  Why?  Because of the revolutionary way in which it works.dyson  Instead of using vacuum cleaner bags, it uses a vortex process that “spins” the dirt through the machine, allowing the air to circulate through while dropping the dirt down into the catch basin.  As a result, the product works far more efficiently than any other in the market because it doesn’t lose suction or get clogged up.  But did you know that Sir James Dyson, the inventor and founder of the Dyson vacuum cleaner company, tried unsuccessfully 5,127 times before he succeeded.  HE FAILED 5,127 TIMES!!!

Now, before you run off and say “well, Kip told me to go fail”, let me clarify my point.  Many businesses today don’t have the luxury for everyone to go off and fail 5,127 times.  But what they should have is a culture that is willing to recognize its failures and improve on them.  One that says, “Nope, that didn’t work. Let’s try something different.” One that recognizes our failures are its best opportunities for succeeding.

Does your culture embrace failure as a necessary step towards success?  Are your fellow team members encouraged to innovate, to take risks, and do drive for new and creative solutions to meet your customer’s needs?  More importantly, do they operate in an environment suited to support failure as a necessary evolution toward success?

Communication is Critical

“The less people know, the more they yell”    [Seth Godin]

On many occasions, I have referenced quotes on communication as part of my Leadership Thought.  The reason is that communication is so vital to success in business – to culture, to attitude, and to perception (including that of the customer).  This week’s quote helps drive that point home.

To highlight the importance of communication, and in particular this week’s quote, I’d like to share a brief story.  Last week I went to the doctor for a scheduled visit.  After sitting in the waiting room for over an hour, the office staff informed me I would have to reschedule the appointment for later in the week.  At my return visit, I also waited over an hour before seeing my doctor.  Note the difference in my reactions to the two separate appointments:

Despite the wait time on my first visit, I did not leave frustrated.  I was comfortable the office staff had done all they could do.  After the second visit, I left frustrated and disappointed.  I even snapped back at the doctor when he finally showed up.

What was the difference in the two appointments and my differing reactions?  During the first appointment, the receptionist made it a point to communicate to me every 10-15 minutes on the status and reasons for the delay.  During the second appointment, not a single one of the nurses or doctors bothered to explain the delay.  Two separate appointments to the same business, and two dramatically different outcomes.

See what I mean?

Gauge Your Impact

“Isn’t it interesting the effect we have on people, even when we don’t know it.”  – [Bart Starr]

Recently I was in a discussion with one of my leadership team members remarking on how some of our staff were working unreasonable hours trying to keep up with competing priorities.  So I asked the question…”when did I make that a priority”?  His response:  “The team presumes EVERYTHING you ask them to do is top priority, unless you tell them otherwise”.  Wow!  That response literally slapped me in the face!

This week’s quote goes miles to crystalize this dilemma.  It isn’t always in the words we say, but many times it’s in our actions, both past and present, that often impact others.  Are you aware of the effect you have on your team members, your clients, and your suppliers?  Stop and think about it a minute…and make sure the effect you have on others (even when you don’t know it) isn’t creating unintended consequences.