The Undivided Life Blog


I Hope You Fail

company culture leadership undivided life Apr 08, 2024
3 girls on a round swing

“My kid never gets hurt. Never.”

I was squinting at this woman at the local playground as she made this proclamation and stared intently at me while I held one of my crying kids. I had six of my seven children with me, and she was hovering over her 3-year-old, managing every step the little girl took.

Was her intensity coming from a place of pride? Had it been three years since an OSHA recordable in her home? Or was it a place of judgment? How dare I develop my kids through the life lessons that come from trial and error - - from pain and recovery?

Either way, it made me feel bad for her kid. Not only did I wonder how many developmental milestones are delayed or missed when you never get hurt, but I also worried more about how this kid would fare in the world if this trend continued until she was released from the nest years down the road.

I think it is okay for kids to get hurt in regular play as they test limits and grow in confidence. Not injured, not hospitalized, but certainly, I believe bumps, bruises, and scrapes help children calibrate their current limits and grow in confidence as they recover from each new Band-Aid or ice-pack moment.

Isn’t that mom’s approach to parenting like the philosophy of many managers and teams these days?

Don’t ever mess up. Don’t ever try to stretch your limits at work; you might get bruised or scraped. Look to your mom or manager for approval before running up the slide or attempting to create a new solution for solving an old problem. Be sure everything you do is mediocre so that you appear to be working or playing, but it is all done until the restrictive rule of a micromanager. Don’t make waves (or bubbles, for that matter); just sit there and be content.

Adults, like kids, should be free to learn, grow, test, and fail with the full support of their managers. Meanwhile, company leaders should clearly articulate and reinforce the organization’s mission, vision, and values as critical reference points for each member of the team.

As a company leader, I want the people on our team to fail quickly and often. I know what you are thinking: shouldn’t we come up with a cute acronym for the word FAIL or a nice quote about the fruits of failure? Sure. If that helps, go for it. Or just say that an expected outcome that isn’t achieved is a failure, not a success. I have always learned far more from my failures than from my successes, and calling them failures is not an attack on my dignity. They are just failures, and I aim to have many of them as I continue to progress.

I am not a perfect parent. I don’t want to pretend to be one, either. I am also not a perfect manager or leader. In both scenarios, I am on a journey, and my plan is to continuously learn without fear of a disappointing outcome or the next fall.

So, here’s to my crying kids and to the post-mortem meetings - - May each of these moments serve as a place of formation, calibration, confidence, and breakthrough.

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I Hope You Fail

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