Failure and Feedback

“It’s almost like a race to fail as many times as you can.”

– Chris Powers


It starts with us saying, “No—we’re going to give you the ability to fail. We’re going to allow you to make this decision.” Then, they’re allowed to go do it. They fail, maybe, maybe not, but if they do fail, then we give feedback and it creates this loop of: try, fail or succeed, feedback, growth. As long as we create that cycle, more and more things continue to go onto their plate. They build confidence, they grow as a person.

The feedback is, you’re not mad. As soon as you’re mad at someone for screwing up, by nature, you’re telling them you can’t take risks or else we will get mad. Exactly. The quicker you can fail the better. It’s almost like a race to fail as many times as you can and keep failing, failing, failing, because you just kind of keep learning.

It facilitates that other thing we talk about a lot, it’s a Harvard Business Review called “Monkey Management” where there’s things that get passed around all day in a company because people don’t necessarily want to be the one responsible for making the decision. So, I’m going to bring Chris into this decision, and until Chris makes a decision, I’m no longer responsible for that and now I’m waiting on Chris. Every time we allow someone to bring something to someone else, you’re actually reducing their confidence. You’re not allowing them to grow as a person because you’re saying, “It’s okay that you need to take this thing to this other person.” As opposed to saying, “Wait a minute, I can answer this myself. I don’t need your guidance or help on this.” If I do, I will learn based on the outcome of whatever I decide now.

The key is being willing to have radically transparent conversations. The key is you can’t have a culture where you try to sugarcoat the thing that you’re trying to help that person grow. They have to understand it’s coming from a place of some kind of growth and team building and culture, not from, “Hey, you messed up. You don’t know what you’re doing.” It’s setting the tone and the knowledge up front that they understand that this is going to happen.

If you fail, we’re going to talk about it. We’re going to talk about what really happened, we’re going to talk about why it happened, we’re going to talk about how it happened. We’re going to talk about it in the sense of: How do we get better? How do you learn from this experience and move forward? Not from you can’t do that again, you’ve messed up, if that happens again, you’re out of here. It starts from how do we start talking about these situations before they ever happen? So, when it happens, you can sit down and have an open, transparent conversation and not have to wonder if it’s going to affect this person in a negative way. They’re going to be excited about it.

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