You Should Let Your Team Fail More Often




In my last piece, I made the argument for competitive business leaders accepting failure in order to create a culture of trust, bravery, and growth.

If you are on board with this philosophy, the logical next step is to put the spotlight on your team members. The theory is, by encouraging your employees to tackle projects without fear of failure, you’ll improve your company culture and business results.

In other words, you should let your employees fail way more often.

As a leader, this may go against your intuition and definition of what a good boss does. That’s because we often focus on nurturing and guiding our team members so they feel supported. However, too much nurture and guidance can be detrimental to their development.

Letting your employees fail (and learn from those failures) allows them to grow into confident, successful business leaders who can impact your business significantly more.

While this philosophy seems easy to implement, in my experience, business leaders are scared to let their team members fail.

Why Can’t Leaders Let Their Teams Fail?

Most often, the reason why business leaders are hesitant to let their team fail is that they’re thinking transactionally. Thoughts cross your mind like, “I don’t want to lose this deal.”

This thought process is understandable, but you should be thinking of the long game. Think about how to set up your salesperson for progress and independence. Because the reality is, if you help them too much, their instinct will be to continue asking you for help.

Can you blame them? You made their job so easy!

The quickest way to help them become independent includes providing them with autonomy, and one potential outcome of that can be, of course, failure. Let them try, fail, figure it out, and then succeed.

Now clearly there are some deals that you simply can’t afford to lose. For these instances, there is probably an opportunity to let them struggle/fail on a micro level before stepping in to help.

Why You Should Let Your Employees Fail

The obvious one is that we learn the most from our failures. We’ve heard this plenty of times.

But failing in a supported team environment can also build trust throughout your entire organization. If your team is empowered to take risks and bring forward ideas without repercussions, they will take more risks and bring forward more ideas.

This risk-taking starts with trust but ends with courage. Allowing individual members of your team to try new things encourages courageous action. And while not every single project or idea will be a knockout, the chance for innovation will be notably higher.

Learning, trust, and courage blend together nicely to create confident and experienced employees. In return, your team members will be focused on higher-impact problems which will bring more value to the organizations.

Now that we’re on the same page, here are some tactical things to do to implement this failure philosophy.

How to Let Your Employee Fail

So I’m intentionally being dramatic. When I say, “let your employees fail,” what I actually mean is implement a learning and growth culture.

By implementing a learning and growth culture, you can instill trust and confidence into your team while developing them into masters of their craft.

Here’s how to start:

Hire The Right People: Obviously, the entire notion of trust relies heavily on whether you hired someone you trust. If you don’t trust someone on your team, then you’ve hired the wrong person.

Step Back Soon: Support your new hires via training, but once they’ve got the hang of it, step back. Let them test new processes or explore new avenues on their own.

Ask More Questions: When you meet with your team, try to avoid providing answers. Instead, ask more questions so they arrive at the solution on their own. When your team members find solutions on their own, they learn and become more confident.

Support Learning Initiatives: Learning initiatives aren’t just conferences and panels. These initiatives can include cross-department brainstorms, knowledge shares, and micro-training.

Support Their Failures: When your team does fail, support them with learning opportunities, words of encouragement, and some space to breathe. How you react to their first failure will set the precedent for how they approach risky decisions.

Why This All Matters

All business owners want to scale and grow. This scalability and growth is only possible if you’ve got a smart, hard-working team that takes initiative, calculates risk, and then goes for it.

Eventually, you’ll want your company to be a smooth sailing ship. At that point, your personal contributions will simply be the icing on the cake (or some luxurious aquatic amenity). Your leadership skills will trickle down, and set your company’s culture. All will be right in your business.

But without accepting failures and then using those failures to grow your team, none of this picturesque yachting will happen.

So make a conscious effort to step back, support your team where it’s most needed, then make them walk.

Only throw the lifeboat if they’re truly drowning.

Read my first post in this series, “If Failure is So Important, Why Don’t We Talk About It?