Reframing Failure

Its time to re-frame failure. To avoid the word, people have tried to soften it by calling it a setback, major disruption, mistake, error in judgment, etc.  Use whatever word you like, it isn’t the word that is the problem, but how you interpret it, or personalize it. The stories  below are examples of how famous people have turned failure into success.

Thomas Edison: As a young boy, teachers wrote him off as someone who was unable to learn.  He was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive. He found his niche as an inventor, after 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb, 1,001 was a winner!

Bill Gates was a Harvard University dropout and co-owner of a failed business called Traf-O-Data. He was passionate about computer programming and built Microsoft, the world’s largest software company. Microsoft went public in 1986, and by 1987 Gates became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

What these individuals have in common is that they didn’t consider themselves as failures. They saw each step as a learning opportunity, that brought them closer to their goal.  They learned from their failures until they succeeded.

Nine out of 10 small businesses  fail. Seasoned entrepreneurs encourage new entrepreneurs to fail often and fast. Why? This mindset helps entrepreneurs learn from failure to improve their service or product. 

Why are we afraid of failure?

We can take failure personally by tying it to our talents and worth because we have been conditioned for success throughout our lives, for example:

  • When we were young, we were encouraged to do well in school and pass each grade. Passing a course or a grade is associated with success in life.
  • In sports, usually only the top three competitors are rewarded for their success.
  • There is competition to get into elite career programs. Getting into an elite program is an indicator of success, status, and the best of the best.
  • We need to compete successfully to get a job.

All of these reinforce success and avoidance of failure.

Studying failure

Columbia University’s Teacher’s College is studying failure through its research centre. The research centre is helping students understand that failure is a normal part of learning that leads to success.  This 2016 study, of 400+ grade 9 and 10 students, found that students thought they needed to have a natural ability to be successful. This thinking is a problem for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics because they would give up and drop out if they struggled in class or failed a test.

The researchers normalized failure by sharing stories about the struggles inventors and scientists faced before they succeeded. As as result of hearing the stories, science grades improved. Marks dropped for students that only learned about success .  The takeaway from this study is that failure is normal when you are learning or doing something new, and it is important to understand, learn where you failed, and do better the next time.

Reframing failure

Make peace with failure and move on.  You might need to feel bad about it in order to make peace with it, but don’t let it drag on, find a way to get the discouragement out of your head. Vent, journal or do what helps you clear you head and gain perspective.  Consider what happened, what you learned, and what you would do differently next time.

Taking action will help you move on. It will also help keep you from rolling it over and over in your mind.  Re-frame it as a learning and growing opportunity.

It’s a bad idea. Knowing when it is a bad idea is important so that you don’t waste time or money on it. Test out the idea, look at it from different angles, read up on it, check if it has been done before, talk to experts, learn from the mistakes of others. Take small steps to get some small wins, build confidence, and move towards your goal. 

Develop a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, a psychologist and author talks about a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset.

  • The fixed mindset sees talents and abilities as things we’re born with, so when we fail, it becomes a reflection of who we are. 
  • The growth mindset is where we keep learning.  Dweck’s research found that those with a growth mindset achieve more over the long term.

Continuously Improve.Learn from industry, manufacturing, and health. These sectors have taken the lead to promote a culture of safety by learning from their failures to improve products and outcomes. They’ve re-framed failure as quality improvement.

  • The airline industry is a great example of learning from failure. When an airplane crashes, there is a thorough analysis that goes into identifying and learning what caused the crash and preventing future crashes. This analysis requires openness, patience, curiosity, and a tolerance for ambiguity. It has resulted in improved airline safety worldwide.
  • The car manufacturing industry focuses on quality management and continuous improvement, to make their cars safer.
  • Hospitals review deaths and adverse incidents to improve future outcomes by identifying the root cause and system issues involved.

Plan for roadblocks and barriers. Plan and manage your risk(s) when they arise to overcome roadblocks or barriers.

Celebrate wins .This will motivate you to keep going.

Focus on what you can control. Take action to improve the things you can.

Takeaways

Success and failure are a part of a continuum. The same qualities that causes someone to be successful can cause them to fail.

Industry is leading the way to learn from failure. They are re-framing failures as opportunities to improve safety and outcomes.

We can learn from industry to normalize failure, to use it to improve what we are doing, and see it as a step closer to success.  

What about you? What will most help you get back on track after a failure or setback?

If you like this article, please share.

Leading with an Attitude of Gratitude

Photo by Debby Hudson, on Unsplash

Canadian Thanksgiving is coming this weekend. The word thanksgiving is a great word, because it is a reminder to take some time to be thankful for what we have, and for those who love and appreciate us. It can be tough though, because it is a habit that needs to be developed through practice.

When I was younger, I didn’t really have an appreciation of Thanksgiving.  My family cooked a turkey, but that was about it.  When I went away to university, I really noticed Thanksgiving for the first time.  I was too far away to go home, and I lived in residence. When my friends would go home for Thanksgiving, it was lonely.  Occasionally a friend would say “hey maybe you can come home with me for Thanksgiving dinner” but wouldn’t follow through.

During those times, I would try to make the best of it.  I took myself out to dinner, hung out with others that were staying around, go to a movie, walk around and enjoy the fall colours, and sometimes I had a pity party.  It was a tough holiday.  

It isn’t easy to be grateful when you don’t feel grateful. Those times are the hardest to dig deep to find some small thing to appreciate.

I made a point to invite those without family or plans to Thanksgiving dinner or any other holiday dinner after I graduated. I know that they were grateful for the offer whether they joined us or not, because they knew that someone was thinking of them.  My children started this practice as well and is something they continue to do.  It is a way for me and for them to help show our appreciation for others, especially those who are lonely.

I am grateful for the lesson that lonely Thanksgiving holidays in school taught me. Holidays and celebrations can be hard on those who are alone.  I know from experience how a small act of kindness can make a difference in someone else’s life and how good it feels to be remembered.  It can also make a big difference in your life and how you see the world.

So, what does gratitude have to do with leadership? When I read various articles about leadership, frequently, a key quality of leadership mindset, is an attitude of gratitude.  There is nothing like a manager who tells you that they appreciate the work you do. Similarly, having family or friends tell you that they appreciate you is special. It makes a difference. Good leaders take the time to appreciate what they have, and those around them regardless of their situation in life. Many give their time and money to build a better world.  

What we reflect to the world, is reflected back to us… 

What are you grateful for?

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Share if you think someone needs to read this.

Mind your Mind

You’ve probably seen something like this floating around the internet.

I really like this visual because it is a reminder that our brain really is like a computer. We program and controlit by what we put into our head (thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs).

What comes out of us (our actions) is a result of what we put in (programing).

To get new results, we must, alter our programing.

Delete the negative junk we are putting in our head. Then rewire with new programming.

Don’t Quit

For some, when something is hard, uncomfortable, or scary, the tendency is to give up.  For others it is the kick that they need to keep going because they know that the breakthrough is coming. They double up on their efforts to train the quit out of themselves and keep going.

As we enter the 2021 Olympics, we will see athletic leadership in full display in the next few days as Olympic athletes embrace the Olympic motto and build their mindset for “faster, higher, stronger.”

And the Moral of the Story is Don’t Quit!

I love this story about why it is important to keep going. This excerpt is from Napoleon Hill’s, “Think and Grow Rich.”

Three Feet from Gold

One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat. Every person is guilty of this mistake at one time or another.

An uncle of R. U. Darby was caught by the gold fever in the gold-rush days and went west to DIG AND GROW RICH. He had never heard that more gold has been mined from the brains of men than has ever been taken from the earth. He staked a claim and went to work with pick and shovel. The going was hard, but his lust for gold was definite.

After weeks of labor, he was rewarded by the discovery of the shining ore. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, told his relatives and a few neighbors of the “strike.” They got together money for the needed machinery, had it shipped. The uncle and Darby went back to work the mine.

The first car of ore was mined and shipped to a smelter. The returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado! A few more cars of that ore would clear the debts.

Down went the drills!  Up went the hopes of Darby and Uncle!  Then something happened!  The vein of gold ore disappeared!  They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there! They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again— all to no avail.

They decided to QUIT.

They sold the machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars and took the train back home. The junk man called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating. The engineer advised that the project had failed, because the owners were not familiar with “fault lines.” His calculations showed that the vein would be found just three feet from where the Darby’s had stopped drilling! That is exactly where it was found!

The “Junk” man took millions of dollars in ore from the mine, because he knew enough to seek expert counsel before giving up.

Remembering that he lost a huge fortune, because he stopped three feet from gold, Darby profited by the experience in his chosen work, by saying to himself, “I stopped three feet from gold, but I will never stop because men say ‘no’ when I ask them to buy insurance.”

More than five hundred successful men told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them.

Don’t quit, your breakthrough may just be three feet from gold.

Believe Better

We can be our worst enemy if we listen to our fears and limiting beliefs. Successful leaders reprogram their internal messages and mindsets to overcome fears, insecurities and limiting beliefs. They stretch themselves to believe bigger for themselves.

Changing your mindset and limiting beliefs is hard work because it takes constant attention to what you are feeding your mind. It is really building a new habit so that your actions can follow your beliefs.

Try it and see what happens!

If you like this, ;please share.

Get Organized to Improve Credibility and Reduce Stress

Photo by Serpstat from Pexels

Organizing things is one of my ways of coping with stress and it is how I remain productive.

  • Organization and time management skills are life skills that can be developed and maintained.  In this study, 67% of high school teachers surveyed, viewed having organizational skills as critical to student success. The same principles that prepare for student success can be applied to work and personal success. Realistic time management and organization skills can improve productivity and the quality of your life.
  • On the other hand, disorganization can lead to a negative impression about your abilities, competence, reliability and credibility.

Factors that Lead to Disorganization

Disorganization may be a result of procrastination, attachment to things, or lack of skills. Those who want to develop or improve their organizational skills, may need to change their mindset and their expectations.  Before people make a change, they need to have a reason to change, and this means a mindset shift. Think about trying to lose weight, eat healthy, or have a fitness regime, etc., first you need to be committed to doing it, and then you need to follow through. Unless you accept that it is a process and will take time, you may become discouraged. For some, getting organized may sound good for about a day until your mind goes back to, its too hard, too much work or it takes too long. You may start to feel guilty, give up and end up back at disorganized and overwhelmed.

Disorganization may be due to a mental health condition. Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), hoarding and other mental health issues can make it difficult to develop and maintain an organized environment. If this is the case, then it is important to get professional help. Get a diagnosis from a professional in the mental health field and appropriate support like, medication, therapy, coaching, organizing, education, etc.

Ditch the Guilt and Stress

Do only what is comfortable for you to do and manage. Take small steps that you can do consistently over time. Ask for help.

Common Elements

I sifted through information and advice on this topic to find the common elements. The good news is that the basic components of organization and time management are the same for work and for your personal life. They are:

Priorities

  • Prioritize your activities for the day, week and month. Some of them may be able to be automated and some may become habits. According to a study from Duke University, around 45% of our everyday actions are made up of habits.
  • Do the urgent and high importance tasks first. Some things may be urgent but not important, so learn the difference.
  • Write down your bigger goals (life goals). Then break them down into manageable pieces.

Planning:

  • Bigger or more complicated projects requires some thought and preparation. Break large projects into manageable pieces. Delegate whenever possible.
  • Build in a back up plan. Think through “what if” scenarios. This will help avoid being late on projects or not having enough money or other resources.
  • Poor planning will create additional stress and cause you to go back to either refinancing, removing some aspects of the project to complete it or be on budget, or negotiating for more time to complete the project.
  • Ask for someone else to review your plan.

Process:

  • For Work: These are activities that can be automated, like automatic calendar reminders for meetings or appointments, or templates and processes for activities that come up frequently.
  • Personal: Tasks that can be automated or delegated, like organizing your house. For example, having bins for mitts, or hats, a place to put your keys, a grocery list that everyone can write down what is needed, or paying your bills automatically by setting up an account.  
  • Work and Personal: Block off time to do the important things that need some thinking or do-not-disturb time. Some online calendars have features that allow you to show that you do not want to be disturbed. If you are at home and don’t want to be disturbed turn off your phone or put it on do not disturb. This feature will allow only certain calls to come through. Tell those around you that you do not want to be disturbed. Lock your office door.
  • If you have children that need watching ask a friend, neighbor, parent to babysit for a few hours to complete your work.
  • Designate a time to review email. This way you won’t be distracted by incoming emails.
  • Don’t multitask, it is too easy to get distracted.

Making the Change

Making a change is hard, you have to be intentional about the change and fight the stumbling blocks that come up to block your progress, such as procrastination and perfectionism.

Decide what you would like to organize, then:

  • Take a small step-a micro step. According to B.J. Fogg, Director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, and author of “Tiny Habits, The Small Changes that Change Everything,” it means making the change as small as you can. To create a new habit, simplify the behavior, make it a tiny behavior that is easy and fast to do.
  • Apply the change consistently, it means doing the same steps repeatedly (daily) until they become habits.
  • Organizing one area of your life can lead to organizing other areas of your life. This will make you more productive and increase your confidence.

Project Killers

  • Procrastination: If you keep stalling a project then the project isn’t important to you. If you want to hang on to it, start taking micro steps. If it is important, and you keep stalling, someone else should take over.
  • Perfection. Some people will fiddle with a project to make it perfect. It will never be perfect; it should be a quality job and never sloppy.

Takeaways

Some of my favourite organizational tools:

  • For work: I love mind mapping because it helps me see the whole picture, organize components and see relationships all at once. It makes the mess a message.
  • For my personal life: My phone is my organizer. I use notes, voice memos, camera and calendar features to keep me organized, remind me of meetings and on-the-run notes or memos. I use the camera on my phone to take pictures of where I parked (parking level, parking number, landscaping ideas, etc.)

Good organizational skills matter because they:

  • Help you become a problem solver, something that the world is looking for.
  • Help you be more efficient, productive and successful.
  • Help you achieve your goals faster.
  • Help other have more confidence in our abilities.

For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned

Benjamin Franklin

Successful Leadership Problem Solving

Photo by Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash

Good leaders have a problem solving mindset which makes them so effective, have better control of their lives, and have more success.

Successful problem solving happens when you are clear about what your problem is. Correctly identifying a problem is critical to solving it.

  • It sounds so basic, but some problems are not easy to identify, which makes it more difficult to solve them.
  • Sometimes people have a solution, before they understand what the problem is. 
  • Sometimes the problem is so complicated that layers must be peeled away before you can get at the root cause.
  • It is a trap if you think that defining the problem is easy. In all my years as a policy analyst, defining the problem is the most difficult part of policy work because you need to get to the root of the issue. If you can’t identify the problem, you won’t be able to fix it, or move on.  

Problem Solving Steps

The problem-solving process is the same no matter what the problem is:

  1. Identify the problem(s): It may help to talk it out with someone. 
  2. Gather information: interviews/talking with others, research, data, internet reviews, annual reports, other reports, minutes, etc.
  3. Analyze your information: Use the information gathered from step two and begin analyzing and synthesizing the information.This includes identifying options or choices and what to consider before you make your best choice. Often step 2 and 3 go together.
  4. Put together an action plan: What are the steps you need to take to make it happen?
  5. Review what you learned:  Once you have implemented your plan, you may want to review the process, (immediately, so you can document what worked and what didn’t at various intervals, 6 months, 1 year, etc.)

Example:  Having a difficult conversation

The Context

A golf trip is being planned by a group of golfers once travel opens from COVID. Some golfers are concerned that not everyone is immunized or will be before the golf trip. The immunized golfers are hesitant about having non-immunized golfers join them, but are afraid to raise it for fear of offending the non-immunized golfers. They are also afraid that by socializing with the non-immunized golfers, they could potentially infect their close family members once they return home from the trip. (Partners were not invited).

Identify the Problem:

Do I have this difficult conversation about what to do about the immunization issue, or do I let it go?

It may be helpful to talk it out with others to clarify the problem. 

Information Gathering and Analysis:

Identify concerns of the golf group both immunized and non-immunized. 

Identify what is non-negotiable.

Identify logistics of lodging, meals, golfing, local rules and requirements, etc.

Find out what the safety risks and requirements are for the immunized and non-immunized, including risks to family members. Many of the golfers have family members with chronic and respiratory illnesses that could put their health at risk.

What are the requirements if someone gets the virus? What is the impact to the group? If quarantine is necessary, are there other arrangements that need to be made?

What happens if someone is hospitalized with COVID or becomes ill? Would someone have to stay with them until they were better?  How will that situation be managed? Would medical insurance cover them? Will someone from the family be able travel to be with their sick family member? 

All these items need to be thought out and planned for.

Action Plan:

Plan for the difficult conversation. Identify how and when to have the difficult conversation. Plan what to say and how to say it:

The leader of the golf trip started the conversation by admitting to his non-immunized friends that this was going to be a difficult conversation and that he was taking a risk with the friendships by doing so. He indicated that his safety and the safety of his family was the most important thing to him.

He acknowledged that his friends had a right to choose not to be immunized. He also acknowledged that as the leader of the event, he had a right to protect his family and others on the trip. He mentioned that others were concerned about how this would affect them and their families.

The leader laid out all the information he gathered and all the questions that needed to be answered. As they began discussing the issue in a calm and rationale manner, it became clear that the non-immunized golfers had not considered all the “what if’s” and had more to think about. The non-immunized golfers went away to consider the discussion and the potential scenarios.

They had a follow up discussion a week later and the non-immunized golfers decided that vaccination was the best option for them and their families. (They had been thinking about getting vaccinated, and the questions raised made them do their own research and reach this decision-no strong arming was involved).

The discussion ended with a temperature check on the relationships. The leader asked how the non-immunized golfers felt about the issue, discussion and relationship. The response was: “All is good.”

Learnings:

Leaders don’t step away from a difficult conversation but find ways to manage it. This real-life example is relevant because difficult conversations happen in the work environment and in a personal environment.

It was an awkward situation and an uncomfortable discussion that brought out all the issues into the open and “cleared the air”. They were fully discussed so that everyone could move on.

Thoughtful problem solving played a key role.

Having a difficult conversation can be productive, calm, rationale and without drama. 

Fully displays leadership skills and character traits such as communication, integrity, honesty and compassion.

Takeaway

This is an example of excellence in leadership problem solving: All of us will run into messy people problems based on emotions, principles, or politics. Most people want to run away from these kinds of conversations, it is an act of courage to face the problem directly.

  • This method of problem solving is a time-tested process that works no matter what the problem is.  
  • Sometimes as a leader you have to do the hard thing. Do it as compassionately as you can.
  • This also serves as an example of how to have a difficult conversation, whether in your work life or in your personal life.
  • Every decision you make has a consequence, be ready for the consequences.

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters. Quote Master

Be the Leader of Your Own Life First!

Being the leader of your own life means taking control of your decisions, thinking, emotions and actions. It is inside out leadership.  

Today’s society is looking for a different type of leader than in the past. People want a leader who is willing to listen and learn from others and from their own successes and failures. It takes a learning mindset; someone who is willing to be a leader of their own life.  Focus on the things that will make you a better leader at home, this will then make you a better leader at work.  When you can effectively lead your own life, you can do a better job of leading others.

Take Care of Yourself: Pause, Reflect and Refresh

Photo by Dave Dollar on Unsplash

We have just passed the one-year anniversary mark for COVID-19. About a year ago we went into shut down mode.

COVID is the disruptor that has thrown the world off its axis. The world shut down and we learned and are still learning how to deal with the new world. Most of us learned to adapt. We put on face masks, we are social distancing, we put off any kinds of celebrations, we stopped travelling and we stopped physically seeing our friends and families. Instead, we learned to use zoom, teams, Skype, Facetime, and other online platforms that allowed us to be together virtually. We could play games with each other, have virtual drinks and dinners to keep the connection.

A full year later, we are excited about the news that there are vaccines to help the world become normal-ish.

With the last year in lockdown, the cumulative effects of COVID are taking their toll on us. There is more stress, unemployment, mental health issues, and prolonged lack of human contact or interaction.

Lately, I have been seeing messages everywhere that say the same basic thing, take care of yourself, take time to pause, reflect and refresh. It’s like this message is following me around and so I say…

Take care of yourself

While we wait for COVID restrictions to end and vaccinations to reach herd immunity levels; take care of yourself. We have been running on stress, overwhelm and burnout. While some stress is helpful to stimulate peak functioning, too much stress has the opposite effect. That’s why it is important to take a break, pause, reflect and refresh. The break gives us a chance to reset, catch our breath and really see what is going on. We can see things anew, things that we have stopped seeing. We can start engaging in those things that build us up and get rid of those things that tear us down.

Take a physical break

Take a holiday. It doesn’t mean you have to go away physically, but you can if you are able to. It means take a holiday from the thing that is creating the stress or overwhelm.  The holiday could be a simple walk in the woods or along a beach. Nature has healing qualities, take advantage of them, they are free. You can look at photos of holidays in the past or family/friend functions that you enjoyed. These simple acts can help you feel like you have gone away and refreshed yourself by leaving you with the feel-good hormones.

Let go

We also need to let go. Many of us feel that things will fall apart if we are not there to care for them. That’s just not true. Life will go on. Did you ever hear of an organization collapsing because someone left it? No. Someone else steps into that gap. If we don’t let go, we won’t move forward. If we don’t let go, we will never grow. Letting go is a part of life.

I’ve noticed that when I reset and let go, life gets better. The answers come for the problems I have been trying to solve. I make better decisions and I am less stressed and worried about things. I am more creative and productive.

Relax

Learn to relax.When you take care of your mind and body, you’re better able to cope effectively with challenges in your life. Get quality sleep, try out a new exercise or use physical relaxation techniques, like deep breathing or meditation

Always working, thinking and producing is counterproductive. The body was not designed to go 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Even God rested on the seventh day. Rest gives you time to regenerate and remove some of the harmful hormones and toxins that have entered the body because of the overload you have put on your system.

Mind your mindset

This is a big one! Your mind is a powerful tool, use it to your advantage! Think differently on purpose. What you focus on grows. Focus on those things that will lift you up, inspire you and re-ignite you.

Our thoughts can wear us out, especially if they are constantly negative, fearful and stressful. Take control of your thoughts. This requires discipline and practice. Refuse to listen to thoughts that keep you in the muck, fight back. This also helps to keep things in perspective. Replace the negative thoughts with positive ones; from “I can’t do this, to, I got this.”

Rewire your brain to look at things from a more positive perspective. Think of failures as learning opportunities. This requires discipline and practice. The reward is that it makes you more resilient and you rebound more quickly from setbacks.

Many leaders and top entrepreneurs practice gratitude. This requires discipline and practice. It helps to refocus thoughts from a mindset of lack to one of abundance, from the negative to the positive and from roadblocks to opportunities.

What are you grateful for?

Be kind to yourself

We can be kind to others, but somehow, we think it doesn’t apply to ourselves. Be kind to you.

What I do

Almost every morning I have a yoga stretching routine that I do. Because I sit all day long, I find that by the end of the day my muscles are tight, so stretching in the morning is sooo nice! If it isn’t that, I walk. I live in a neighborhood where there are so many trees that my walks are peaceful and calming. That might not be for you, maybe its running, cycling, high intensity workout, Pilates, or something else. The physical activity removes the stress that has built up in your body and clears the mind.

I also like to do some deep breathing exercises. This helps to reduce my stress. I find that I do this almost instinctively, especially when I need to manage a stressful situation. The breathing helps me to relax, reflect and refocus.

Hydrate!

Do something nice tor someone else-it will help them, and it will help you.

Takeaways

We can’t keep going if our tank runs out of gas. We need to take time for ourselves. It will help us build up our physical and mental reserves so that we can keep going and live our life to the fullest.

Make this a priority in your life!