Fail Well for Success

You’ve often heard the phrase, “Failure is not an option.” The truth is failure does happen and it does happen often. Particularly to people that who take risks, people that focus on expanding their opportunities, implementing bigger ideas, and following their own paths, not paths designed by others.

We’ve all done our best to avoid failure or minimize it – yet, it shows up over and over. Our inability or unwillingness to address these life lessons makes it harder for us to succeed. Every achievement has a story of what didn’t work behind it – unfortunately, media doesn’t often share those struggles and what was learned during the process.

As business leaders, it’s important to learn how to handle mistakes and learn from them. Trying to cover them up, deny they happened, blame others, or allow our confidence to wane are not good choices. There’s no magical way to deal with or get past failure. Each person needs to work through their challenges one day at a time.

Why do failures hang around? There are failures that simply happen (e.g., the economy) and failures we could have prevented (e.g., implementing quality control procedures). We’ve created stories to minimize their impact or excuses to justify why they happened. Emotionally we hang onto the sadness, guilt and negativity, while failing to forgive ourselves and forgive others. Often, we continue to indulge in bad habits or stay in situations that are not healthy. The key is to recognize a potential problem and resolve it proactively.

How can we learn from failure faster? Hire a trusted advisor who can help you clarify what worked and what didn’t work. Take time to acknowledge that things didn’t work out as expected. Many times the actual outcome does not match up with our perceptions of “what should have happened.”

How do we fail well for success?

  • Write down your thoughts and feelings when the incident(s) happens. Don’t share your private journal with anyone. The act of writing can be cathartic when you simply express your thoughts on paper without concerns for grammar, punctuation, and word choices.
  • Walk it out. It’s hard to be depressed when you’re in action.
  • Talk it out with a few select confidants – don’t go it alone. Be clear these conversations are not designed as pity sessions. Their purpose is to help you develop compassion and wisdom from your lesson(s) learned.Remember, there will be more opportunities to fail and succeed – life gives you lemons or lemonade – it’s your choice to work through the challenges or succumb when mistakes happen! The key is to fail well so that you’re not repeating the same life lessons.


Jeannette Seibly has been a business advisor and facilitator for over 20 years; she guides the creation of new solutions for business challenges. Learn more about these and other successful leadership techniques by visiting her blogs posts on: and get your copy of, “5 Simple Steps to Improve Your Results (and Enjoy Being a Leader Again)”

Avoid strategic plan nightmares.

Executing ideas that sounded great in creative sessions can turn into nightmares. Often, execution fails because of the “bright, shiny object” illusion or a failure to address the reality of current work practices.

Poorly designed goals and action plans that don’t incorporate the current systems and people or are mismatched with the company’s vision and values will fail. Jokingly threatening to fire everyone and hire the “right ones” to get the idea to work is a fool’s mission for any company. Threats like these should be seen as warning signs about the workability of any blueprint.

Create workable goals and don’t change the goal to accommodate the action plan! Learn how to work backwards to produce a focused action from the desired result—it will illuminate often-overlooked problems. These discoveries, when realistically addressed, will help you avoid strategic plan nightmares.

(c)Jeannette L. Seibly, 2013

#1 Strategic plan failure

Designing a company’s strategic plan can be fun and exciting. However, after the one- or two-day workshop, it’s time for the real work of implementation. The #1 strategic plan failure starts at the top with the company’s president if he or she isn’t accountable and exercising leadership. During planning sessions it’s important to incorporate how, what, when, and where the team will get started when they return to the office. It’s the president’s job to ensure actions taken are focused on achieving the desired goals and any problems or plan failures are immediately addressed.

(c)Jeannette L. Seibly, 2013