Business 15 Effective Ways To Normalize Discussions About Failure

15 Effective Ways To Normalize Discussions About Failure


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Fear of failure is a common human instinct, especially in the workplace. While failure is often considered a bad thing, the lessons learned from a misstep can often be used to a company’s advantage.

When leaders encourage employees to discuss failure and how to learn from their mistakes, a company can grow tremendously. Therefore a panel of Business Council members gave some tips to normalize these types of conversations.

Below they explained how these conversations can lead to employees feeling more open and willing to try something new, without fear of reprimand if it doesn’t work out.

1. Discuss what works and what doesn’t

Success is not final, and failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to keep going that counts. Organizational leaders can cultivate an environment of curiosity and learning to encourage more discussion and synthesis about what worked and what didn’t. A newsletter that emphasizes hypothesis-led tests—the tests that worked and the tests that failed, but provided learning—could be a good start. – Frank Jiang, SWIDIA

2. Support New Ideas

We are constantly trying to make new mistakes! We make sure our leadership team is constantly modeling “failures” and supporting a culture that doesn’t penalize ideas that didn’t work. It rewards “at-bats”, as opposed to perfection. – Suelin Chen, Cake Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?

3. Celebrate the attempt, win or lose

Assume that no one wants to fail, build that trust in your culture, and most importantly, take ownership of your own mistakes. If your team is stretching or taking a chance on something new, it should be celebrated as win or lose. Repeated failure, or failure at ‘the basics’, requires targeted support to ensure that the knowledge and tools necessary to succeed are in place to take team members to the next level. – Sara Thomas, AWL Strategies, LLC

4. Learn from past mistakes

No one likes to fail, but failure is an essential part of life. Without failure, we would never know what success looks like. It is important for leaders to encourage more discussions about failure in their organizations. By talking about failure, we can learn from our mistakes and become better equipped to face future challenges. – Marc Devisse, Tri-Town Construction, LLC

5. Be ready to spin

Failure is a part of life and business. If you build a team of strong producers, they will fail more than once. The key is awareness and recognizing failures quickly. Be prepared to turn in advance. We talk a lot these days about failing forward and failing quickly; unfortunately we have forgotten the old saying of measure twice and cut once. Fail as little as you can, but be prepared for the moments when you do. – Anthony Dohrmann, Electronic Caregiver, Inc.

6. Show how a failure can be a victory

The fact is, there is fear behind failure – and even more fear behind admitting failure. The trick is to portray failure as a battle scar where your overall performance has improved for the better. It can be identified as an exciting story to share. Leaders must continue to share not only their failures, but also the victories that have come from them. Show the light. – Saye Sathiyakumar, Power Staffing Solutions

7. Failures Are Learning Opportunities

A culture of compassion and transparency creates a connection for everyone to discuss why a project failed. Build a respectful, safe workplace where fast and forward failure normalizes failure. Consider including failures in discussions during a project. Open source models of leadership and community building can create a culture that supports success and failure. – Chris McGrath, valued inc

8. Demystify Failure

Maybe don’t call it a failure; call it testing instead. You need to find new ways to move your business and the world forward – and that requires testing. Every test brings answers and a few will be very successful. Keep testing, keep winning! – Alex Micol, scalers

9. Don’t look negatively at failure

Failure should not be seen in a negative light. As a leader, failure of all shapes and sizes is an important identification of the space to grow, adapt, expand and rethink. Failures within an organization must be evaluated in a way that does not ostracize or isolate; rather, they should unite and bind a leader and an organization. – Christian Brown, Glewee

10. Be prepared to celebrate failures

We have a culture of celebrating success, but we should also celebrate failure, as these are the building blocks of future success. Just as we have demo days at organizations to show success stories, we should have a failure day once every six months to discuss failures and lessons from those failures. – Snigdha Kumara, Figure

11. React immediately and adapt to disturbances

Failure is part of every successful journey! We need to look at long-term goals and adapt to any short-term failure – the failure can be direct or indirect, financial or non-financial. Any type of failure needs an immediate response and adjustment to incorporate it into the overall strategy so that the company can absorb it and learn from it to achieve any long-term goals. – Bilal Majbour, Wealth

12. Inspire others by sharing failures as a leader

Because growth and innovation often stem from ‘failure’, it is important to facilitate inclusive and transparent conversations that are encouraging and solution-oriented. Leaders can set the tone by sharing their own relevant experiences of growth through failure. They can also cultivate a corporate culture that celebrates growth, encourages innovation, and promotes progress over perfection. – Ellie Shefic, Made to Change the World, Inc.

13. Fear of failure leads to failure

While failure right now may not deliver the intended results, it is an important piece of negative feedback to help your organization improve. Enforce within your team the idea that failure is only learning, as this will encourage them to be fearless and succeed more. – Joseph Lambert,

14. Failure drives continuous improvement

Failure is a natural and expected consequence of innovating and testing new ideas; it is also the best way to hone our expertise and our capacity for continuous improvement. In performance media, we only arrive at optimal buying models by testing, failing and turning quickly. Regularly ask your team about recent failures to learn from them, celebrate them, and move forward as a smarter, more agile organization. – Denira Borrero, Omni Direct

15. See failure as an opportunity for growth

We need to stop thinking of failure as a bad thing and start seeing it more as an opportunity for growth for all! Ask people to think about what they did wrong to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Then assign a team to review and write a report on what happened and distribute it throughout the organization. Most major incidents are the result of a series of minor failures that have gone undetected. – Justin Arnold, Flexx Mobility & Performance LLC

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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