Pastor Robert Schuller is credited with posing the age old question, “What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” It’s a great theory for leaders to contemplate and debate. The vision you have for your NGB, sports commission, or destination needs you to ask this question – every day. Great leaders provide vision and direction for their organizations, even if failure is a possible outcome.
I’m a huge fan of author-blogger-speaker Seth Godin. His books are easy reads, yet they also offer great depth. One of Godin’s most recent books is actually a sequential culmination of over a decade of his blog posts. The book titled “Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?” centers on the theory of paralysis by analysis. This phenomenon happens when people point at every possible negative outcome of an idea or project and inevitably fail to launch. This happens because people are afraid of failure. Starting something is scary. Maintaining the status quo is much safer. It’s easy to be mediocre by ignoring the root problem, or worse yet, doing nothing.
Great leaders hit the start button. Great leaders also fail. When they do, they get back up and start again. It’s how we handle failure that defines us. The people that know me well know that I don’t take failure well (something I’m working on). Some of the smaller mistakes that others may not notice, often drive me crazy (I’m working on this one too). I’ve learned over the years that perfection isn’t attainable, which has helped me become a much better person as well as an improved leader. However, to accept failure without a fight isn’t acceptable. We work in the sports industry; at our core we are competitors that strive to be the best.
With the help of Seth Godin, here are four steps to combat the fear of failure…..
1. People - Surround yourself with leaders that are not afraid to fail. The ones that are willing to take a chance on something new won’t be afraid to start.
2. Go now - There is never a perfect time to initiate something. If you wait until the perfect time to try launch a new event or work with a new partner, you will never start. Pick a start date and never look back.
3. Start - See item #2. It’s not okay to be average. Try something (anything) now. Test it, expand on the good things, and retool (or pitch) the bad ones. When you have success, replicate that program and expand it through new delivery channels.
4. Implementation - In the end, failure or success is all about execution. Solid planning identifies desired outcomes, creates clear role clarity for those involved, and leads the team through a sequential series of events to reach the final destination.
When completed, return to step one and repeat.
No matter the size or structure of your organization, or your ultimate role within it, leaders that start something will inevitably fail. Sometimes there will be small slip-ups, sometimes you will fail in a grandiose manner. On the flip side, those that begin great journeys often find success. There will be small wins, as well as epic victories. As a leader, it is your responsibility to hit the start button. Nobody remembers the mediocre. Great players don’t sit on the sideline when its crunch time. The best take the ball when the clock is winding down. If leaders are the ones that take action, and the followers sit back and watch, we must ask ourselves a big question -- Why not start something today?