May 29, 2012

SXSW Recap (Part 4): Learning from Failure

Maria Giudice's picture
Maria Giudice
CEO & Founder
1 comments

Note: This is the last of four posts recapping “Moms (plus one Dad) vs. Management,” a talk on the parallels between parenting and management given by Hot CEO Maria Giudice and an all-star group of panelists. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, as well.

To close out this series on “Moms (plus one Dad) vs. Management,” I’m talking today about my own portion of the presentation, which covered a subject near and dear to my heart: failure.

Nobody succeeds all the time; failure is inevitable. So how do we deal with it, and what can we gain?

Whether you’re a parent or a manager, failure is one of the hardest parts of the job. You’ve got to accept it and move past it personally, and you also must create environments in which your kids and your employees know that they can fail without the world collapsing around them.

The common thinking is that failure only teaches us what not to do; that when a thought or action leads to failure, the big takeaway is, “Boy, better not do that again.” But there’s so much more to be gained. Failures provide information that help us build maps toward more successful processes, and it’s vital, as both a parent and a manager, to create situations in which people can fail safely and productively.

When dealing with failure, here’s what I’ve found has worked, as both a parent and a manager:

Maria, the Mom: Kids are comfortable with failure.
Maria, the Manager: Adults rarely are. It seems as we get older and the stakes feel higher, there’s less tolerance for risk-taking and bold ideas. Encourage people to take chances and worry less about failure, and bigger ideas follow.

Maria, the Mom: Kids don’t hold back; they have ideas, and they try them out.
Maria, the Manager: It’s important that people feel they have a space to air out those half-crazy ideas. Don’t shoot anything down right away.

Maria, the Mom: Kids don’t necessarily know when to fail.
Maria, the Manager: This is one area where being older and having experience helps. You have to know when to fail, when to take risks. Blue-sky thinking in the early stages of a project is great. But a failure late in the process can be a big setback. As a manager, you have to set expectations: when is it OK to fail, and when is it not?

Maria, the Mom: You can’t do everything for kids; they have to learn for themselves.
Maria, the Manager: Our job as managers is to help employees get better at their job and be better people in general. You’re a coach and a mentor, not a do-er. And one of your key duties is helping people learn from failure.

That wraps up the SXSW series! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more from "Our Thoughts."

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1 comments

John F. Merola's picture

I enjoyed this M vs M article. Made me pause and think.....
Working in a small office has caused a few of the familyesque conflicts along the way. Working in a dysfunctional office appears to be easy for me. Makes me wonder what my upbringing was really like? I guess I'm always too focused (selfish? self absorbed?)on my own immediate goals to worry about the dysfuntionality.

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