Permission to Fail - Creates Opportunities to Succeed
By: Jim Bearden

A premise that has achieved wide acceptance in Corporate America—as well as in organizations in general—is that expanding staff participation in the decision-making process is a good thing. In the global marketplace, successful organizations must engage in what I refer to as The Relentless Search for Better Ways. Better ways will include process improvements, and who better to offer ideas for improving processes than the people who perform the tasks that comprise those processes?

All this talk about expanding participation in the decision-making process and The Relentless Search for Better Ways calls to mind an important factor in any successful organization, leadership. Working with clients to develop their leadership skills has provided me with opportunities to identify characteristics of effective leaders. Here’s one that I’ve found essential to facilitating the search for better ways.

Leaders Must Be Willing to Endure Mediocrity

What? you say. Mediocrity? Why, that flies in the face of everything leaders are supposed to stand for. OK, I’ll admit that at first glance this does seem contrary to what we expect from leaders, but I believe it is most definitely a characteristic that marks a true leader, and here’s my rationale.

Please notice that I didn’t say that leaders should settle for mediocrity, but that they must be willing to endure it. Leaders encourage risk-taking by their followers; they empower their associates to consider and try alternatives to the status quo, and that’s where the endurance requirement kicks in.

When trying new approaches, techniques or even new activities, people’s early performances may be mediocre—at best. Their first few attempts at those new activities will probably be their worst attempts, but if their performances are to improve, the performers must persist. Proficiency is the outcome; practice is the process.

All of us have set out to master new activities, and for most of us, our initial performances left a lot to be desired. Walking and talking are just two examples of this phenomenon. Both activities were difficult for us all in the beginning, and we’d agree that both are very important. Happily, most of us got past our early mediocre performances and today can walk and talk quite well.

The support we got from the people we looked to for guidance and approval was an important reason for the progress we made. Parents and other significant people demonstrated for us their willingness to endure our early, mediocre attempts at these and many other activities. They contributed to our success by their willingness to endure our mediocrity (OK, our failures).

In the workplace—as in the home—leaders must recognize the important roles they play in facilitating individual and organizational growth. By their behavior leaders encourage, inspire and empower others to challenge the status quo, to consider and try alternatives. Leaders are willing to endure the mediocrity that characterizes the early steps toward mastery.

“Permission” to Fail Creates Opportunities to Succeed.

Jim Bearden has been inspiring clients to acknowledge and improve the choices they make. He delivers dynamic programs and facilitates processes that awaken them to the relationship between personal accountability and success.

Copyright © 2008 by Jim Bearden. All Rights Reserved.
 

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