Failure. It’s a word that produces an involuntary shudder in most of us – especially when it refers to the workplace. No one wants to fail, and C-suite executives least of all. But the evidence suggests that we might want to reconsider our relationship with the word.
As leaders are increasingly subjected to scrutiny in their professional lives, it’s causing a change in how they act and communicate. Ruthless, hard-hitting business practices are making way for a more thoughtful, transparent approach. Along the way, the burden of maintaining a flawless public appearance has begun to ease. Not everyone is perfect all the time – and that’s okay. In fact, failures can provide a tremendous opportunity to grow and learn.
This shift makes 2015 the perfect time for CFOs and other leaders to help improve their organizations and reap the benefits of a synergistic workplace.
Recognize the failure trap
From a giant red F on a homework assignment to not passing a driving test, we learn early on that failure is something to avoid. That mindset is a persistent one. It’s particularly true in business, where a competitive environment makes it easy to forget the roadblocks and challenges leaders have to face as they grow their careers.
Perfect executives don’t exist, and with the role of CFO in transition right now, failures are inevitable. For the leader who has modeled their career plan on the success of those before them, this can be difficult to cope with. But you aren’t alone. Even the “most progressive and understanding workplaces” struggle on how to deal with failure, according to Forbes. So, what’s a CFO to do?
View success as a journey
Perspective is everything. What may look like a disaster to one person could be seen as an incredible opportunity to another. The key to overcoming failure is to view it as a step toward success, says Spanx founder Sara Blakely. “If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.”
When we look at failure as an important learning tool instead of a threat, we’re able to take the risks that help us get where we want to go. It’s important to not just accept where you’ve made a mistake, but to share how you overcame your struggles. By modeling transparency, not only will you set a good example for the people around you, you’ll also be providing ethical and practical value to your organization, according to this 2013 survey from TINYpluse.
Face your fears
Hiding failure is simply not an option for business leaders in 2015. As capturing and sharing information becomes even easier, trying to keep a failure under wraps means you run the risk of being discovered and labeled as fraud. Under the right circumstances, an entire organization could be damaged because of one person’s inability to own up to their mistakes.
“The difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing,” says Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Executives must learn how to navigate failure with grace – and a big part of that is letting others see where you’ve messed up.
Move through failure and beyond
Failure is a point in time – not a thing that defines you or anyone else. As you look at your own professional path, consider the benefits of transparency. Be accessible, and show your weaknesses without giving into them. You – and your organization – will be stronger as a result.