Leadership lessons learned from failure

Businesses are terrified of making mistakes, but the reality is that no one is exempt from failure, even leadership teams. While mistakes are often a bitter pill to swallow, they can be the fastest or even the only, way to improve.

Organisations dedicated to continuous improvement recognise the importance of a proactive learning culture. Hallmarks of such a culture include encouragement to think outside the box, instilling confidence to try new things and avoiding negative repercussions if the idea doesn’t work out.

As a team that owns its fair share of failures, here are the top lessons learned by Azured’s own leaders that have had the most impact.

  • Hire slowly, rectify quickly

While it may seem insensitive, hiring slowly and firing fast is a compassionate approach that protects both your business and the individual. The reason behind this principle is simple. When a new employee comes onboard, businesses are 100 per cent invested in the development of that individual, spending time, money and emotion in anticipation they will stay with the organisation long term. To best ensure this effort is not wasted, an organisation should avoid hiring too quickly. Taking on a new member because of scarcity or deemed potential, undermines not only the skills and attitude of an employee, but also the broader team.

However, sometimes it can be difficult to know how a person will perform until they’re actually in the role, operating within the team. Therefore, in the instance an employee doesn’t fit the needs of your company, you must free up their future as quickly and humanely as possible. It’s important to think of firing as a consequence of a hiring mistake, and confront it head on.

  • Transitioning from player to coach

Being a good player doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a good coach. Whilst leaders should always try to lead from the front, making the successful transition from employee to leader is difficult. You can only leverage your technical experience so far to be a leader, then, at some point, communication and self-awareness play a large role. The importance of the so-called soft skills cannot be overlooked; a fantastic technician doesn’t always make for a successful manager or teacher. While you can’t force someone to fit a leadership role, you can potentially craft the role around them, leveraging their strengths to set the standard for the team.

  • Empowering others means offering the opportunity to fail as well as succeed

It can be difficult to trust that someone you’re managing knows what they’re doing, especially if it’s something new to them. While they often surprise you, it’s still important to give them that first opportunity and prepare yourself if they fail. The worst thing you can do is to do the work for them. Instead, you’ve got to give them the chance to determine whether they fail or succeed. The best way to do this is to shift your mindset from short-term to long-term and implement safety nets to protect your business. This way, you can delegate work confidently and know that a mistake doesn’t have to be catastrophic for the business.

  • You can’t want for someone more than they want for themselves

Have you ever wanted more for someone, but they just aren’t interested? You spend time, energy, and resources to pave a path of possibility only to be met with a lack of ambition, drive and commitment. At this point, if they’re not investing in their own development, how can you, as a leader, invest in theirs?

When you find yourself in this position, consider it as a red flag. It can be useful to have an explicit discussion with the employee as it could be that their idea of success is different to yours, or that they would prefer to direct their energies on a different part of the business. It’s essential to understand their perspective before becoming frustrated that they don’t seem ready to invest in their own development. Once you understand the context they’re operating in, you can make the right decision for them and for your business.

Remember, it’s not your job or responsibility to want success for someone that doesn’t want it or isn’t ready for it.

The power of failure

Sometimes businesses learn the hard way and the Azured leadership team is no exception. However, it’s not always about being right, but being open to correction, and learning how to exploit the innovative power of mistakes.

Businesses should always be on the lookout to improve and learning from what’s not working can be a powerful way to identify where to focus. Such is the case with digital transformation. Here at Azured, we want to know your organisation’s pain points to deliver a solution that’s right for your business needs.

To discover how we can help you, contact the team today.

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