Resilient Leadership; What is your relationship with failure?

As a leader, do you ever face an inner struggle about failure?  

Failure is often part and parcel of leading in whatever domain. As a parent. As a manager. As a teacher. As a C-Suite executive. As an entrepreneur. Let’s discuss Resilient Leadership.

Whilst risk and failure are inherent in leadership; you can get caught out by how strongly the sense of failure – the overwhelm, the shame, the stuckness, the panic – can grip you. Having a sense that you are failing can entirely dominate how you feel and, as a result, change your outlook, your resourcefulness, the sense of yourself, and your resilience & wellbeing.

Feeling as if you are failing is a sense that most detest. The Resilience Dynamic’s experience is that people become adept at avoiding or resisting leaning into precisely what the fear is. In particular, leaders learn to move away from the sense of failure quickly and double down on efforts to ‘succeed’.

They can become over-controlling, extend their working hours, and create undue pressure on themselves and others around them where this is not needed. It can create blind spots. And all the effort can create deep fatigue, which in turn fuels a lack of perspective. That’s when you really lose it. Boom! Prime conditions for that ugly sense of failure now to get you in its grip. This is a tricky cycle to interrupt, I will share some tips for Resilient Leadership;

Short-term solutions to loosening the grip of failure
Two short-term solutions can break the cycle. Both of these short-term solutions help and can be re-enacted each day when needed. Learn to have the skills to trigger both ways of thinking, anytime, anywhere:

Specifically, assess where success is at risk. Get real and specific.

  • Is it with a particular project?
  • Is it about deadlines, resourcing, finances within your current client work?
  • Is it the potential failure of the quality of what you do?
  • Is the issue finances? If so, what is it specifically – cash flow, or revenue generation?
  • Is it with your current team? Do they not have sufficient capacity, or skills to do what you need?

    Getting real about the issue helps you size it and create clearer boundaries. It also highlights if there are easy solutions to reducing the risk and helps you refocus your efforts appropriately.

Look at where you are already successful. Really ! See the truth of your current success.

Even if you have cash flow issues, you may have already set up the foundations for growth. It may be that whilst you need to bolster quality or client work,  you can be optimistic about the bigger picture and that what you need to do is trust the processes already in motion. Look for the data where the green shoots of success are already growing.

If you have relationship issues in your team or family, or group, to see the truth of where you already have connection, trust, sharing and learning together is resourcing. Allowing yourself to draw on help from others  – in person or from memory – is phenomenally powerful. Failure is a lonely business, and being with, leading with, changes that.

The Transformation  –  what is needed

To make a long-term transformation in your relationship with failure, get yourself ready to go deeper.  

  • First of all, you need to recognise that you are in the grip of feeling like a failure.

It’s not an intellectual thing, it’s a real, visceral set of feelings and thoughts, that together form your own personal form of being in the grip.

I will use my own experiences of facing the fear of failure and turnaround from that. And how useful that is as a business leader and entrepreneur.

As an SME things can be very tight. I spot my own behaviour first, before realising it is driven by a fear of failure:  I find myself seeking yet another new solution to my current issues.  Indeed I seek and act on loads of new solutions, unduly creating more workload for my already over-worked team. And nothing gets done really well.

It stems from my skill to experiment and trial things. That’s my comfort zone. But more deeply, it stems from the overwhelm which undermines my ability to trust – even see – what is already in motion. I need to reconnect with seeing the plan and trusting it.

Planning. Personally not my forte, but I can do it, so no new ideas at this stage, but you need to double down on the current plan and bolster the current impact of that.

  • Next you need to identify precisely what you fear.

We are a small organisation, with a big ambition – to spread resilience & wellbeing everywhere. We work with organisations of all sizes, enabling workforce resilience. We work with global technology companies, as well as SMEs. We work in multiple regions, in multiple timezones, with all different kinds of levels of workforce, from senior leadership through to front line workers. And we are growing. Because of an amazing new resilience dashboard application, the Resilience Dynamic Dashboard®, we are growing like mad. But the demand for organisations to understand more of how to do this can outstrip our revenues – and the business can feel bumpy. Organisations need to mature in this field, and whilst we are delighted to help, we need to be the right side of the commercials to do that.

Personally, when I am overstretched, my fear of failure can rise.

It has been refreshing for me to delve in.

I now understand where I am definitely not fearful– our current client work, the marketplace understanding the benefits of our new dashboard, the quality of my team being able to deliver, the management of the business itself – these are all in excellent shape.

The fear comes from my own sense of exposure around my idea and the solution we have developed. It’s ultimately about my ego  – ! – and my desire to grow at scale. Will organisations invest for scale?

This is a bread and butter question for all new propositions in any marketplace, especially for entrepreneurs.  In recognising the real source of potential failure, I immediately feel better. I know this fear. And I know and have already done the work of plans for the many outcomes for the business.

My goal is to try my best.

I am so proud of what we are doing, to stand up, to be counted, to bring a solution to organisation to build their workforce resilience, their internal capacity for change. We know it’s good for people and it’s good for business. We just need to trust the process.

Now I am feeling good.

I know the signs of dreading failure, I now know what I need to do to stop and interrupt it. I have got this. Instead of being driven by failure, I can see it my signs and triggers as ‘data’ that will help me see I need to re-prioritise and embrace in trusting our existing plan.

It’s a cool result; Resilient Leadership.

I wonder what, if anything, you are doing about your own relationship with failure?

If you are interested in exploring and shifting this, get in touch, our expert resilience coaches would be delighted to help you attain resilient leadership.

Author – Jenny Campbell, CEO Resilience Dynamic – Follow me on LinkedIn

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