How Have I Failed Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

I was watching a 20/20 news story on the power of failure recently. It was really quite inspiring, with key lessons to walk away with.

Failure can:

  • Keep you open to new ideas
  • Be a key part of your recipe for success
  • Just be life’s way of nudging you and letting you know you’re off course
  • Help you know and learn who you are
  • Work for you, not against you

Currently, I am leading a significant enterprise transformation effort at a global financial services company. What I know for sure is that there will be many ‘failures’ along the way. To help people feel more comfortable with the changes and ‘failures’ brought about by change, I am going to introduce this concept that ‘failing is a good thing’ in my meetings. I’m going to start my meetings with “What did you fail at today?” I’ll be sure to mention my own failures, so that folks can see that we should expect to fail during this transformation. The key is to reflect upon and learn from these failures to help us continue to lead the organization through this multi-year transformation.

Stay tuned…I’ll let you all know how this new approach to failure is working in a few months. In the meantime, now go do some failing on your own! Let me know how it is going….

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Sandra Schwan


  1. Interesting idea … I wonder if the negative spin will have other impact. Please do report how it works

  2. Thanks, John. I will. I am hopeful that the team won’t view the failure question as a negative but as a normal and expected and okay part of change. I’ll keep you posted!

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