The insight I share this week is about failure, and is a bit controversial. Some will love it; others, like me when I first saw it, might reject it out of hand. But with time, it grows on you. I now like it a lot. What about you?
Business is changing so fast that we don’t have time to stick with mistakes. We have to keep facing reality, trying new things, making sure we are putting our focus and energies behind what is delivering the returns…for our employers, clients, careers. It’s not an easy path to follow. It requires real discipline.
And it is with that in mind that I loved (on reflection) the quote from the crusty old Brigadier in Evelyn Waugh’s “The Sword of Honour Trilogy”, who said to his leaders this about the first rule of attack. It is a startling insight for each of us, every day. Here is it:
“Never Reinforce Failure.”
Instead, says the Brigadier, “…. don’t get mixed up with asses getting in a mess- the best help you can give is to go straight on biffing the enemy where it hurts him the most….”
When I read that, I paused and thought hard about what this meant, and what I could take from it.
I have always believed in ‘never quitting.” It was the family motto of the Kennedy’s. Walt Disney famously said: “The difference between winning and losing is most often simply not quitting.” Persistence is more powerful than brilliance, and all that jazz.
Sometimes, I realised as I reflected on the ‘Never Reinforce Failure’ counsel, I go a step too far….in trying to sell an idea to a client that they clearly don’t like….to keep supporting a leadership team of a business that is consistently missing its targets…. or persisting with a strategy that is not delivering fast enough returns. Or with a relationship that is just not responding.
Pause a moment. Reflect upon what you are doing and where you are putting your energies. Are you getting the right returns? For you, your employer, your clients? Where are you reinforcing failure? Where are you putting time, energy and resource into something which is not working? Is it time to stop? Probably YES.
Rather, would it be better to spend that time and energy on stuff that IS working and IS delivering- to accelerate progress on the good stuff rather than waste more time, emotion and money on the bad?
I haven’t yet nailed how to interpret the crusty Brigadier’s advice. It needs to be balanced with ensuring we don’t quit where we should not quit, and we do keep persisting where we need to.
But I am sure that if we look hard and face reality at some of the issues where things are not going well, that maybe- just maybe- the answer is to not put more against that. Rather- reinforce success where you ARE winning.
It kind of makes sense. I am giving it a go. You?