Let your team members fail!

failure is the key to successAs leaders we are very, maybe too focused, on ensuring our team members are successful. We help them achieve their best. Training is focused on developing skills and enhancing performance.  But sometimes it is just best to let them fail.  Failure is the greatest teacher of all!

Failure is good

There is a time and a place when you need to let a team member fail.  The learning curve for them will be steep, and painful.  But when you walk them through it and provide a strong safety net, they will learn and be better for it. When would you do this?  If you have a team member who has never experienced failure they will not be equipped to manage the failure process.  They need to learn how to manage failure. Or, you have a team member who is demonstrating a deep sense of arrogance and they are causing broader team balance problems.

The best response to failure

I’m ok with failure from staff.  What is not ok is to not learn from failure. Developing talent requires that you think deeply about your team members.  Your job is to develop their skills, leverage their strengths, and manage their weaknesses.  Don’t be so focused on success that you don’t attend to their developmental needs. Sometimes that means letting them fail.

Park your pride!

One of the realities of staff is that they reflect your leadership. This often causes leaders to mistake pride for true leadership. Manage your upward leadership structure so you can be free to appropriately manage your staff.  That includes letting them fail and ensuring that your leader knows that this is a planned exercise. Protecting your staff’s integrity is far more important than your pride.

It’s about loyalty

Another reality of staff is that you must be loyal to your staff and defend them.  Even at the expense of your pride.  Your staff need to know that you will go to the wall for them… including letting them fail and fully supporting them in their failure!  They will walk over hot coals for you if you do! Loyalty is becoming a lost element of the work environment.  However it is one of the critical aspects of successful leaders. If you care enough to help your staff learn through failure their loyalty to you will increase. That’s a fact.

So let them fail

Think deeply about your team members.  If letting them fail will be helpful for their development then set it up and let it roll!  And while you’re at it, think about your failure experiences.  Learn from them.  But remember, this is just a part of your management tool kit.  You need to discern when and how to use it.

How can you use failure in your management process?

David Reimer

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