Did you know that things like pipe valves, safety doors, software programs, and networks can be built to either fail closed (shut down and prevent further operation when failure is detected) or fail open (system remains open allowing operation to continue)? What happens to you when you fail? Do you shut down or continue to move forward? Do you share with others or keep it to yourself?
It's no surprise that most of us, when we fail, aren't too happy about it and try to stop, avoid, or hide it all costs. This in many ways is a habit of thinking and responding we've been socialized to adopt. Think about it...most kids in school don't broadcast to friends and family when they fail that assignment, test, or class. This is because failure is often associated with not being smart enough or good enough, not trying hard enough, not caring enough...all things we aren't supposed to be or do. And we know we're not supposed to feel good about failure either...it's something to be ashamed of, disappointed in ourselves about, worried about. Too easily, for ourselves or others, failures can turn into an identity of being or concerned about becoming a failure.
But recent research indicates that talking about our failures, especially with those with whom we work, can have some really positive outcomes (such as increased positive emotions, motivation, productivity, confidence as well as better relationships and perceptions about one's leadership), enabling us to thrive and grow. However, this isn't just up to us being open to discussing our failures. It has to be done in the right way (blaming, focusing on things you can't control, or complaining won't get you too far for yourself or with others). And it requires that the environments and organizational cultures we are in support this practice, something referenced lately in various discussions like Google's findings regarding psychological safety and Matthew Syed's Black Box Thinking.
So the next time you fail, talk about and reflect on it so you can become better for having experienced it. And if you're a leader or manager, create and sustain a culture and environment on your team or in your organization that enables people to talk about and learn from their failures. We all want to talk about and celebrate our wins...and we should. But we should also be open to talking about and growing from our misses.
"Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end." - Denis Waitley