Using Failure to Fuel Sucess

You’ve probably noticed the same thing as me.

There is success all around us and, as a society, we love to celebrate success. Think about social media. It’s really just a collection of everyone’s highlight reel sent out into cyberspace hoping to get a little positive affirmation.

We also love a good rags-to-riches success story.

Like J. K. Rowling for example.

She went from living on welfare to becoming the world’s first billionaire author.

We love stories like this because it helps us imagine that one day, if we get lucky, maybe we might become the next rags-to-riches story.

But, what about failure?

We don’t like to think or talk about our failures.

We purposely hide our outtakes and our blooper reel from the world.

We purposely hide our outtakes and our blooper reel from the world. Click To Tweet

We fear failure. It’s embarrassing and discouraging when we fail. We feel like a loser in a world where everyone else is winning.

The problem is that failure gets a bad rap. It’s actually more important than success.

Let me explain.

Consider this. Between 2004 and 2006, at the height of auto-maker Toyota’s success, it recalled more vehicles than ever before. They learned the hard way that success leads to complacency.

We need failure.

We need it to learn, grow, and to provide the fuel to propel us towards our goals.

We need failure to learn, grow, and to provide the fuel to propel us towards our goals. Click To Tweet

Even the great J. K. Rowling was rejected by 12 different publishing houses before Bloomsbury finally accepted her stories.

Think of this quote that is often attributed to Winston Churchill (although he never actually said it):

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” 

Failure is not the problem.

Our response to failure is. It’s the courage to continue that counts.

I recently had Colonel George Milton on my podcast and we spoke specifically about failure. He took a life of failure and built an amazing career in leadership.

He is a highly decorated combat Army veteran who barely graduated from high school. The story of his early struggles and how it provided fuel for his success is powerful.

He never let failure stop him and he was eventually inducted into the United States Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

Listen in to this episode and learn how to harness the power of failure.

P.S. If you haven’t followed me on Instagram yet, you should. You’ll get a little more “behind the scenes” view of what it’s like to lead a manufacturing business.

Help! I’m in a new leadership role, what should I do?

A while back I was asked this timely question:

Q: Jon, help!  I’ve just started a new leadership role and really want to make a good impression, what should I do?

A: First off, congrats!

Here’s the deal:

It doesn’t matter how seasoned you are, any time you start a new role, you’re the rookie.  Everyone’s watching you for cues to see what kind of leader you’re going to be.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the first 100 days are critically important. 

It’s your chance to set the right tone for your organization.

That first 100 days represent the “honeymoon” phase.

It’s the small window of time when you have the full attention of everyone.  Yes, you’ll be under a microscope with people watching your every move.  But this is good news!  It means you can make a big impact…

IF you take advantage of those beautiful early days!

First and foremost:

You’ve got to have a plan.

No plan, no magic.

The best leaders in history have known this…and used this “secret” to win the commitment – if not the hearts – of their staff.  And this all begins with letting your team know who you are.  There may be anticipation – even trepidation – among your people.  Right off the bat, have a meeting with all team members to fully introduce yourself.

Use stories and examples of how you handled past situations to let them see your character.  Be visible.  Spend time where your people are.  Actively listen to their questions, concerns, and ideas. And engage them on the subjects they care about.

In this way, you’ll get to know them.

And they’ll get to know you as well.

Finally, make a point to meet one-on-one with key employees.  I like to have one-on-one meetings with as many people as I can. I want to know the biggest challenges and the most important issues facing the organization. I also want to understand what they think needs to be addressed first.

Bottom line:

The energy you put out is the energy you get back.

If you’re open, cooperative, and show them you value them as humans, they’ll pay it back with insights you wouldn’t get otherwise and greater alignment at all levels.  Get ‘em on the bus first.  Then you can steer.

Anyway, that’s all for today.

Stay tuned for my next post when I’ll go into no less than 7 more key actions you MUST take in those all-important first days to grab this bull by the horns and bring it on home!

If you are striving to become a better leader, get a copy of my Amazon best selling bookI have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following.

Why Do You Want to Be a Leader?

There are three questions you should ask before taking any leadership Job.

A Leadership Crisis

There is a crisis in America. There is a shortage of good leaders, and it seems to be getting worse. The problem is people are choosing leadership for the wrong reasons. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, is changing how people think about introverts. While she is widely known for her writings on this subject, it’s her thoughts on leadership that got my attention. In a New York Times article called “Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers,” she explains that in America today we have “glorified” leadership. So much so that people are taking on leadership roles for the wrong reasons. They are choosing to become leaders to get recognition, more money, or to help advance their careers. She explains:

Perhaps the biggest disservice done by the outsize glorification of “leadership skills” is the practice of leadership itself – it hollows it out, it empties it of meaning. It attracts those who are motivated by the spotlight rather than by the ideas and people they serve. It teaches [people] to be a leader for the sake of being in charge, rather than in the name of a cause or idea they care about deeply. The difference between the two states of mind is profound.

Choosing to Lead for the Right Reasons

While the focus of her article is to point out the importance of those who don’t choose a leadership path, she indirectly uncovers the crisis in the current state of leadership. There is a shortage of good leaders. People are choosing to lead for the wrong reasons, which is why there are so many poor leaders.

If you want to be a leader, the first question you should ask yourself is why? Why do you want to be a leader? If you are choosing this role for the paycheck, the title, the prestige, the power, or the trappings of the position, you are going to be sadly disappointed. Leadership is difficult. Being responsible for motivating a group of people to accomplish a goal isn’t something you choose to do without careful consideration.

Three Questions

Let me suggest three questions to ask yourself:

Do you have a passion for leadership? Just like selecting any career, ask yourself if you have the passion to lead. To be a leader means you have the full responsibility of an organization and all the people associated with it. It means you will be accountable for everything that happens on your watch. It is a difficult and sometimes lonely job that demands a 24/7 commitment. Ask yourself if you have the passion and desire to be a great leader.

Do you care deeply about the idea or organization? As the leader, all eyes will be on you. Your attitudes toward the mission will reverberate throughout the organization. As a conductor, your team will be taking cues from you. If you care deeply about the organization’s mission, they will as well. If you are half-hearted, they will be too. Ask yourself if you care deeply about the idea or organization you will lead.

Do you love people? The one thing I see most in poor leaders is their negative attitude towards people. Leadership is a people business. Your entire job is to motivate people towards accomplishing a goal. Unfortunately, many people who don’t like people choose leadership. I understand. People are messy. They have issues, problems, emotions, relationships, and baggage. But your job is to see past the flaws, love your people, and motivate them to do great things. You can’t be a great leader if you don’t love people.

Consider your “Why?”

As Susan Cain points out, people are choosing to lead for the wrong reasons. The result is a hollowed-out, empty version of leadership that’s not good for people or organizations. Leadership, like any other profession, requires a specific set of skills. If you don’t have them, you shouldn’t pursue a leadership path.

Ask yourself these questions and determine if you have a passion to lead. Find out if you care deeply about the mission. Understand your view of people and what it takes to lead them. If you choose to lead, be a great leader. Honestly, we need better, not more, leaders.

Learn more about how to be a more effective leader in my new book, I have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following.