There’s a lot of talk about failure these days.
It’s such a strange word because no one actually wants to fail. I just experienced it this weekend. I found a new group of guys to play soccer, and man they were on a totally different level. I couldn’t keep up. Not only that, I let down my team when we lost because of a few plays I missed. I haven’t had that feeling since grade school – going home knowing I lost it for the team. It was so humbling.
But… the captain was able to show me a lot of what I was doing wrong and how to improve it.
There’s a lot of talk about failing in company culture these days. The only cultures that can sustain it are the ones that make it safe, share stories about failure and sometimes even “incentivize” it by creating funds for it in the form of hackathons or 20% time to innovate. Most importantly, they learn.
But here’s another way to think of it…
Elon Musk started his rocket company with a belief that they are very likely to fail, and yet, they did it anyway. Why? Because they’re inspired, and he said that even if they fail it will still move the industry forward.
Here’s a great test for if something is still worth it, even at the risk of failure.
1. If you know it will fail, is it still worth the journey?
2. If you know it will be 3x the amount of work you think it will be, is it still worth it?
If you say yes to these, it won’t matter if the (project, venture, product, company) fails. And you’ll most likely have a great story.
Many CEO’s think that culture is HR’s responsibility. But the best leaders realize that they ARE the chief culture officers.
Culture is people, and the best people can take on market changes, competition and shifts in product.
Steve Jobs called Apple (the company) his best invention.
Here’s the bottomline:
HR’s main job is to manage risk when it comes to personnel. And culture work is about taking risks when it comes to empowering your people.
As a leader, is this really something you want to completely delegate and wash your hands from it?
Navy Seals are the best bed makers you’ll meet. They learn how to make beds to perfection as part of their training. If it’s not perfect, then they have to do it over.
But sometimes they will have do it over again, even if it is perfect. This drove some recruits mad – to the point that they quit. While those who stayed on, did as they were told. Even though it made no sense. What better way to test true loyalty than to see if someone will follow command, even if it’s completely irrational.
And that’s the distinction.
If your people are truly loyal, they’ll do what you say, even if it doesn’t make sense. But unless you’re in the Seals, it’s likely that your people won’t do this. They have agency. They have choice of where to work. If what you’re asking them to do makes no sense, then it will frustrate them and they’ll leave.
So perhaps the best thing you can do is drop that word, loyalty. And instead go for engagement. Share the why, allow people to push back. Or go even further – have them write up their job descriptions and their progression plans.
Number 1 rule is to co-create.
If you’re alone, and stressed out, you’re doing it wrong.