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Fail Better to Succeed Faster

Winning is a habit, unfortunately so is loosing. Teams are often their own worst enemies in cultivating the habits of achieving their goals.  Teamwork rarely unfolds perfectly, without any bumps, glitches, or failures. This means that the ability to learn from failure is an essential teaming skill. Although many leaders say they understand the importance of failure to the learning process, not many truly embrace it. Reason, most managers tend to believe that failure is bad, consequently they think about it in the wrong way. The truth about failure; it is sometimes bad, sometimes good, and often inevitable – learning from it depends on how you think about it. Failure, loosing is a fact of life. Habits are at the bottom of it all.  Habits are learned behaviours.  They can be changed.  Your thinking controls your beliefs, your beliefs control your habits and your habits control your destiny. You can control your thinking, your beliefs, your habits and your destiny, so can a team, only if they become aware of their habits.

TeamsThe Importance of Small Failures. Small failures are often overlooked. Why? Because when they occur they appear to be minor mistakes or isolated anomalies hardly worth the time to contemplate. Small failures inevitably arise when daily work is complex and interdependent. Small failures are early warning signs that are vital to avoiding catastrophic failure in the future. When problems inevitably arise during the course of a day, workers have two choices: one, they can compensate for problems, which would likely make the small failure go unnoticed. That could be counterproductive if doing so isolates information and obscures the opportunity to learn. The other choice is they seek to resolve the underlying cause of the small failure by notifying those who can help correct the problem. This, however, would expose poor performance. Due to a natural desire to protect their image or status, very few people would voluntarily choose to publicise their own mistakes. But to capture the value of small failures, individuals and teams must learn to acknowledge their performance gaps. Successful organisations are those that catch them early, correct, and learn from failures quickly. Success and winning is the flip side of loosing and failing.

What to focus on and manage: Success & Goal Achievement

Some habits are difficult to change because they are interconnected.  A single behaviour becomes a cue for another behaviour, which in turn may be a cue for still another.  In this way, teams develop habit sequences that form vigorous modes of patterned behavioural norms.  To eliminate self-defeating habits and replace them with goal oriented reinforcing successful habits, try the following approach.

The Relationship of Goals and Purpose – A team’s goals are measurable ways of structuring the purpose.  The goals should therefore be aligned with purpose.  Purpose provides meaning for doing and achieving. Meaning is one of the strongest motivators of all people.  Meaning is the consequence of how we think about what we believe in.

Thinking – Henry Ford once put it this way: “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right”.  People always act in ways that are consistent with their beliefs, for better or worse!

  1. Take charge of your thinking otherwise somebody else will

Some believe they can ‘control’ their environment/circumstances by mastering their responses to it in a ‘purposeful’ way i.e. becoming ‘self-directed’.  Others believe they can’t and are at the mercy of their environment/circumstances i.e. trapped in being ‘other-directed’.  The more a team believes they can control, the more they will try to control, and the more they will control. Use the collective thinking power of team members to stimulate each other positively to ‘know you can’.

  1. Bring team purpose into play

Use the team purpose productively to ‘reframe’ your frame of mind and learn from small failures quickly. The terms frame and framing suggests the idea of looking through something at something else. A frame directs attention to features of a situation in a subtle way i.e. causing different questions to change the status quo. Your point of reference of anything will determine your limitations and boundaries of your thinking and behaviour. You can change your point of reference. This inevitably will change your thinking and your behaviours and provide an opportunity to ‘fail better’ and learn from the experience much faster.

Sources: Amy C. Edmondson, How Organizations Learn, Innovate & Compete in the Knowledge Economy – Harvard Business School; Johan Cronjé, specialist team coach, Intégro Learning