Failure and Learning from Failure

We use Carol Dweck’s work on Mindset, among other resources, to talk about the benefits to leaders of being able to construe failure as a gift rather than a burden.  We are familiar with the posters that feature quotations about failure.

For example, from Michael Jordan:

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.

From Thomas Edison:

Negative results are just what I want.  They’re just as valuable to me as positive results.  I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.

At the same time, we frequently speak of failure as something to be endured rather than something to be embraced.  And we are frequently in a situation where we have to justify failure rather than being able to set it in the context of longer term learning and success.

The role of the coach is to prompt the client to think of failure as being in the service of personal and organizational learning; to bring to awareness the lessons learned from any experience, whether ostensibly a failure or a success; and to develop the personal leadership competencies that enable a leader to keep others focused on long-term outcomes rather than a negative construction of failure.