Learning From And Overcoming Failure

Nobody wants to fail in any business or personal situation. However, no one is also perfect, and failure is a natural part of being human. Despite this apparent inevitability, failure should still be pro-actively addressed and not simply accepted in an effort to prevent a recurrence in the future. This approach requires recognition of the cause of failure. Such an awareness may call for an individual or company outside of the one responsible for the mistake, as an outsider will be able to look at the situation more objectively than the guilty party. The outsider is also important in case the individual or company refuses to accept responsibility for the error. On a personal level, failing marks in school, low or non-acceptance from peers, or not making the varsity are some cases that would make young individuals or students consider themselves unsuccessful. In these cases, studying harder, continued training in sports and finding out the favorites or preferences of others without compromising oneself are the immediately obvious solutions. Failure at work may involve an employee or several employees, a top executive or members of the corporate board, or the company as a whole. For an employee, failure could mean an inability to comply with a certain company policy, perform an expected task or meet a deadline. One common example of non-compliance is tardiness. All companies expect their staff to be on time, as being late would naturally affect workflow, particularly for businesses in the manufacturing and production sectors. For sales personnel, closing only two deals when five are expected would constitute a failure. A pizza delivery service that promises a resident delivery in 30 minutes and arrives five or more minutes later fails the waiting customer. These three situations would probably have various reasons for happening. Waking up late would be a common factor for tardiness. One may say that unrealistic targets make it difficult to close deals. A motorcycle breakdown would definitely prevent a pizza from reaching the customer sooner. It is also possible that the individual involved may have non-work related issues such as a family matter or a lover's quarrel that affect his concentration and performance. Recognition and acceptance of whatever the reason or cause is would mark the first step to ensuring that a repeat of the incident is avoided. This means that the immediate supervisor or manager must have a discussion with the concerned employee to find out what is bothering him. In cases where pay, benefits or a fellow employee is cited, the manager should listen carefully and be prepared to have more than one discussion to address the concern. This will also give the manager the opportunity to find out if the complaint is valid, or if the issue is possibly only a perception that needs clarification. A bigger problem is when the CEO, chairman or other senior executive is involved. The US has been rocked by a series of corporate controversies starting from the Enron debacle. Inappropriate accounting to hide debt, misuse of company funds for personal gain and fraudulent transactions have pulled down the image of corporate America. These incidents were all eventually exposed, but not after causing major damage to the company itself and in some cases, to the whole industry or sector where the company is a key player. The corporate scandals have led to calls for improved corporate governance policies. The Securities and Exchange Commission and other US regulatory agencies have tightened guidelines to discourage firms from any irregular practice. Companies themselves have established preventive measures, including more detailed financial disclosures and tying up executive compensation, stock options and bonuses to performance targets, to deter future irregularities. On the other hand, failure on the individual or corporate level could also happen even after much preparation and organization due to unforeseen circumstances or environmental factors. Katrina and Rita forced many companies to adjust their strategies to account for losses incurred due to the two hurricanes. The preceding situations above all reflect the truth about 'learning the hard way' - sometimes, failure has to happen before a lesson is learned. In some cases, it takes repeated failures before learning really sets in. The key lesson is well-presented in one of the latest commercials featuring basketball superstar Dwayne Wade. The Miami Heat player is shown falling several times in various games from his college days going to his current NBA career. Near the end, Wade is shown picking himself up after each fall, saying that he falls seven times.. but gets up eight.