The Dreaded “F” word

My weekly discussion group brought up some discomfort around the word “failure” – the dreaded “F” word…

Failure, fail, fall, flop, foul-up, frustration, floundering, deFeat, flunk, folding, faux pas, flash in the pan, fiasco, fatal, fault, flaw, fizzle, foible, fumble, farce, faulty….

And the one you were all thinking of: Fuck-up!!

Here’s a reframe one of the participants offered: Describe a time, when you intentionally helped someone through an awkward and messy moment of learning?

One person discussed exposing people to the zone of discomfort to help them get comfortable in the zone of learning.  And they did this in a controlled way or a situation where the outcome was irrelevant.  The only outcome worth noticing was how they felt and the change in their feelings after being in that situation.

Another described a team working flat out to create something amazing, only for the client to come along with a new strategy and specification literally in the eleventh hour.  This caused them to manage unexpected dissatisfaction and complete a tight turnaround to get the desire outcome for the client. Stretching their perceived capacity.

My contribution was the training exercises we were subjected to in the military.  Whereby, on paper, they were designed for you to fail and then cross-examine – what went well, what didn’t go so well and what could you do differently?  In reality, this created a blame and shame effect that often left people despondent and discouraged.

The outcome of the conversation drove us towards considering…  It all starts with Trust, way before the intentional failure / learning moment.  And must end with After Care – to help people see the learning opportunity or the gift of change available to them.

Athletes train in places that are safe to practice, get feedback, test, tweak and adjust, then prepare for the day the races. And Brené Brown considers comfort as a sign that learning is not taking place. She has reframed discomfort as a sure sign of growth.

Now it’s your turn to tell me

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