"I don’t just encourage a make -- I want to highlight the miss, because it reflects on opportunity for the player to self-diagnose and re-calibrate his focus, mechanics and rhythm." -- Idan Ravin, basketball trainer
Most entrepreneurs and leaders have little trouble planning ahead. After all, they are likely in business because they already have a compelling vision for their future. And past achievements certainly play a role in the confidence to lead. Even so, one area even the brightest leaders may fail to consider is where they’ve missed the mark. We too often plan for the future or relish in our achievements rather than examine our missed opportunities.
Here are six reasons why you must evaluate your failures.
1. You can’t afford to repeat your mistakes.
Everyone blunders. It goes without saying -- repeat mistakes, and you won’t be in business very long. Often, the biggest error we make is not taking the time to review our past ones. With deadlines, quarterlies and other challenges to occupy one’s mind, revisiting the past can get put on the back burner. If you’re the boss, no one will force you to reexamine failures -- but it is critical that you take the initiative.
2. Your failures are some of your best opportunities to grow.
Sometimes, a mistake is a one-time transgression. Other times, upon further examination, it is emblematic of a personal bad habit or a bias you weren’t consciously aware of. Identifying an opportunity to improve is the first step, but one that can slip by without a conscious review of the past.
If your company’s core philosophy, product or service has not changed, you again may approach a similar strategic crossroad in the future. By examining past decisions and opportunities to learn from them now, you give yourself an advantage in the years ahead.
3. Your failures are some of your best opportunities to help others grow.
As a leader, the overall success of your company is dependent upon learning from mistakes. Your job as a leader is also to instruct, coach and educate your team. The organization should not only gain from hearing about your wins but also from what you’ve learned from your losses. Showing your team where a strategic decision went awry and how to handle it differently in the future can be extremely valuable.
4. Past mistakes help teach your team the appropriate way to respond to adversity and challenge.
By sharing your failures and what you’ve learned from them, not only do you equip your team to make better strategic decisions, you also demonstrate the right mindset and attitude in how to respond to a fail. You teach them that it’s OK to admit a fail, and to discuss it openly with your teammates, helping to create a culture of self-accountability. The team will recognize that it’s important to take responsibility for their mistakes, but learning from one another is critical, too.
5. Learning from failures is what separates the great ones from the rest of the pack.
The demands of the modern leader are tremendous and numerous. To have reached the leader status, you undoubtedly have demonstrated an ability to make wise decisions more times than not. Because of your successful track record, though, hubris can creep in.
True leaders understand that no matter how accomplished they may be, failures can still teach them something. Not everyone can humble themselves to go through self-analysis -- or to admit mistakes to their team.
6. You must re-calibrate your focus.
As Idan Ravin states, one must re-calibrate their focus to stay on the right track. Think of a leader as the pilot of a high-speed aircraft traveling at hundreds of miles per hour. At top speed, if you are off course just a single degree, you will find yourself miles off target in no time.
In business, strategically looking at your mistakes and determining how your focus -- or lack thereof -- may have played a role is crucial.
Going through the exercise of examining your fails will be a difficult and humbling process. However temporarily unpleasant it may be, it is vital for long-term growth.