Sales leaders; how comfortable are you letting failure happen? Are you OK letting your sales manager make a mistake? Are you OK letting the sales rep lose a deal? What do you do when you see a flaw in the strategy of your sales V.P.? Do you let her execute her plan?
What should you do when you see failure on the horizon? — Let it happen!
Letting failure happen is one of the most difficult challenges of sales leaders and other leaders a like. No one likes failure. Especially when we see it coming. The best leaders know this however and let it happen anyway.
Why let failure happen?
Failure is the only way to learn:
Failure is the only way we learn. As leaders we need and want people to learn and grow. Failure is a part of the learning process. If people aren’t allowed to fail, they won’t learn and without learning, they won’t grow.
It creates ownership:
When we don’t let others fail, we strip them of ownership. When we don’t let people fail, we in essence make the decision for them. We don’t let them make the final call. When people don’t get to make the call, they don’t feel attached to the end result; good or bad. Ownership is important to creating accountability. We want our people to feel ownership for their decisions and the consequences; good or bad.
People need to make their own decisions:
At the end of the day, people have to make their own decisions. They have to be empowered to make the decisions they think will work best. Preventing people from failing takes away their ability to make decisions. We have to let people chose for themselves.
It creates accountability
When people make their own decisions, it creates accountability. We can’t hold people accountable for outcomes when they aren’t given the latitude to chose for themselves. When we don’t let people fail, it’s because we chose for them. We disagreed with an approach, we saw a flaw in the thinking, we did the work for them. When we step into avoid failure we are taking over the decision making process. Taking over the decision means it’s no longer their decision and we can’t hold them accountable for the end results. People have to be allowed to make their own decision if we want them to experience the consequences — good or bad.
When we let people fail, we are empowering them. We are telling them, “we trust you.” People need to know they are trusted for their expertise. People need to feel valued for what they know and for what they do. When we don’t let failure happen, we strip people of a sense of competence. We send the message that says; I don’t trust your judgement and therefore I’m going to do this for you. Do this too many times and your will create stunted robots, as no one will make any decisions. They will just wait for you.
You could be wrong:
Has it ever entered your mind, you could be wrong? What happens if you are wrong? What if your idea wasn’t the right one and failure happens? What if they WERE right? Now what? Just because we think we know the answer, doesn’t mean we are right. We can be wrong too.
It creates diversity, creativity and innovation:
By letting people fail, we are giving permission for people to think for themselves. When an entire organization is allowed to think for themselves it creates a wide swath of ideas and approaches for creating opportunity and to solving problems. If there is one single greatest benefit to letting people fail, this is it. When we don’t let people fail, we stunt creativity. Idea’s are put through the leadership filter and stripped of creativity. When ideas or approaches have to be run by management rather than implemented they lose their ability to be proven out. Letting failure happens means, letting ideas go out without the constricting filter of you. Leadership can’t think of all the good ideas, nor can they determine what the good ideas are. Let people fail, you’ll learn more than by trying to keep them from failing.
It’s why you pay them:
At the end of the day we hire people to do their job. If you don’t trust them to make good decisions, don’t hire them. If you do trust them, then let them fail. They will only fail once. They will learn a lot. They’ll feel as if they have ownership and that they are empowered. The will grow and get better. Letting people fail is an investment.
Let people fail. You’ll have a much more creative environment and a lot more time on your hands to SUPPORT all this new found creativity — and that’s exactly what you should be doing.
Let failure happen. You’ll be happy you did.
BTW: As I’ve been writing I’ve determined this puppy needs a follow-up post on HOW to let people fail. Letting people fail is not an easy to do. Stay tuned!