Great Leaders Learn From Failure, They Don’t Dwell On It!

Sep 29, 2016 | Leadership Coaching

Kevin Watson

Kevin Watson

Director & Lead Coach

Great leaders learn from failure, they don’t beat themselves up about the mistakes they’ve made!

I’d go as far to say if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not actually doing anything!

The experiences and events in our lives play a major part in the levels of confidence we have to do a job.

Yet, although two people can go through the same experience, one may be confident whilst the other is not.

Why is this?

Well, it’s what we do with the experience that makes the difference.

Those people with a high level of confidence learn from their experiences, as opposed to dwelling on them. They consider failure as an opportunity to learn and take stock. Then they move on, fast!

For the rest, how about this notion … don’t even use the word failure.

Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.Oscar Wilde

Imagine what it would be like if you considered there to be no failures, only experiences.

Let me help by asking you this: can you remember when you learned to walk?

At first, I’m guessing you would have fallen over – a lot!

But, I’m also willing to bet that you didn’t give up due to a lack of confidence and never walked again!

Of course not, what a ridiculous idea that would be.

You learned to walk BECAUSE of those times you fell down. You learned from these experiences and then simply walked, without judging them as a failure and losing confidence.

It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.Bill Gates

Have you ever come across the Marshmallow Challenge?

If I’ve worked with you and your team, chances are you have.

I’ve used this exercise as part of leadership and team development programmes, as well as a great stand-alone experience at conferences or to kick start a meeting.

The challenge is a fun, design and build exercise that encourages teams to experience simple but profound lessons in collaboration, innovation, and creativity.

The task is simple: in eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure from twenty sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. Oh, and the marshmallow needs to be on top.

From studies of groups taking part in this challenge, the better teams are found to be recent graduates of kindergarten!

Not only do they consistently produce taller structures, theirs are highly creative too.

But why?

Again and again, the young children build smaller structures, continually learning from the previous one.

Compare this to business students who have been taught that there is one right way and they stick to it!

So, go ahead and try new ways of working, drawing out learning from each of your experiences.

The real winners in life DO make mistakes.

However, great leaders learn from these moments, whereas the rest will often give up.

Click here to find out more about the Marshmallow Challenge

*revised post, originally published on 4th February 2015

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