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Systematize how you handle failure; you will create a powerful tool for employee learning

In today’s blog post, I’m back with another idea in our ongoing series of specific things that leaders can do to encourage and support employee learning.  Today’s tip: systematize learning from failure.

Normalize failure and systematize how you learn from it

At some point or another, we all fail.  Sometimes it’s a new process that doesn’t work out quite the way we’d hoped or intended.  Other times it’s an idea we tried to sell to others but they weren’t buying.  And on occasion, it’s a calculated risk we took that crashed and burned.  Whatever it is, whenever it occurs, it happens to all of us, even the best of us.

So if we know that at some point or another, failure is inevitable, then it’s time to embrace it and learn from it.  What I’m really saying is that failure is a great teacher – it shows us what our strengths and weaknesses are while motivating us to correct them.  So it’s time to systematize learning from failure.  Make it normal and make it consistent!  Make it an acceptable and regular form of employee learning.

Consistency is key

You can do this in a variety of ways, but my suggestion is to make it a recurring agenda item at your regular staff meetings.  At every staff meeting, make it a point to review and analyze one thing that didn’t go as well as expected since the last meeting.  Open a dialogue that focuses on what was learned from the failure, and more importantly, what specific actions will be different the next time around.

If you’ve never done this before, bring forward and analyze one of your own failures the first time.  You’ll be a positive role model, and you’ll set the standard and establish the norms for how future failure post-mortems will go.  If you do this regularly, any negative stigma or sting from failure will be removed, and you’ll find that this process will become an extremely valuable tool for employee learning.

I’d love to know whether you are doing this already in your organization.  If so, how is it going and what tips can you offer others?  And if not, tell us why?  Add your comments below.

This is strategy #18 in our ongoing series on employee learning and development tools that I started back in January.  If you found this one helpful, you can access the rest as follows:

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