Learning from Success and Failure

The Observer of Management Education|December 2019

Learning from Success and Failure
You can motivate your team to work harder by telling them their failures. everyone wants to know the tricks of successful people, how they navigated the minefields, and what mistakes they made along the way— that will help me avoid those same mistakes.
Vibha Singh

How do feel when you look at someone else’s perfectly curated Instagram feed? Does it make you seethe with jealousy? Those feelings are not limited to social media. They can be just as pronounced in the workplace. When you’re in a meeting, you probably don’t enjoy listening to a colleague’s recounting their tales of unfettered professional success.If you’re highly successful, your achievements are obvious. It’s more novel and inspiring for others to learn about your mistakes.” “What’s exciting about this research is that we’re trying to chip away at the resentment that comes with envy and move people toward admiration instead,” she says. “One way to do that is to acknowledge your struggles or shortcomings.”

New research says high-achievers can win over their colleagues with a simple approach: by sharing the failures they encountered on the path to success. Yes, team failure is difficult, but it’s also an inevitable part of the business world. If your team hopes to have any kind of sustained success, you’re occasionally going to run into setbacks, and you’re going to have to learn not only how to bounce back but how to thrive in the wake of failure. As a manager, these moments are the most crucial. When everything is going great, you just need to keep the team pointed in the right direction, but when things go wrong, it falls to you to rally the troops and right the ship. So, how exactly does a good leader do that?

In the early stages of their careers, people often try to learn from the experience of others because they lack experience themselves. They observe role models or study well-known leaders. They seek advice from experienced leaders or read case studies and biographies about how they achieved success. Role models and their successful experiences provide invaluable guidance on how to replicate their success.

As their responsibilities increase, most senior executives realize that case studies about the achievements of others lack relevance to their own context and that their own experience is not only unique but also one of the richest sources of learning.

Confessing our setbacks is counterintuitive; we tend to talk up achievements and hide failures. But successful leaders who only crow about achievements can come across as egotistical showoffs, stirring up “malicious envy” in their peers. Malicious envy is a destructive emotion that makes people feel inferior by comparison, even to the point of wishing they could tear down the successful person. As prior research has shown, this type of envy can be toxic in the work-place, stifling worker productivity, leading employees to behave less cooperatively, interfering with group cohesion, and making people feel more justified in behaving unethically.

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December 2019