This is the third post in our blog series about lessons learned from failures. Over the next couple months we will have guest posts every week from some truly impressive people who will share their insights with our readers. Please come back every Friday and follow the series. This post comes to us from Darlene Templeton.
For many years the word “failure” would strike “fear in my heart” and stop me in my tracks! I know that it kept me many times from stepping outside my comfort zone and really stretching to achieve my potential, both personally and professionally. Anyone else ever had that happen? I wonder where and when that word got so powerful and began to drive decisions not only for me, but for so many others.
When I started my career at IBM, I know that the fear of failing was always on my mind. I would double check and triple check everything I sent out and to make sure that it was perfect. Again, falling into the trap of not stretching because I was afraid to fail! Does that sound familiar?
We have been taught from an early age to only talk about the good things that have happened and not to discuss the areas where we may have failed or that are not considered a “win” in the world. Well, the reality is that we all make mistakes. We are human and discussing those things that may not be considered “happy”, but they will help us all grow.
Thomas J. Watson, Sr., founder and former CEO of IBM, was responsible for the creating the leadership, the culture and most of all, for the success at IBM. I was reading an interview with him early in my career and when he was asked what his formula for success was, he very simply said “double your failures.” That was a huge moment for me, and I began to think very differently about my failures!
There have been many times personally that I know that I have failed, and the majority of the time, it around not communicating clearly, blaming myself or making assumptions. I still know that each interaction is important and when I don’t think it has gone well, I have learned to ask the questions and stop and think about how it could have been better. Before I was afraid of the answers and I am not any more. Again, it’s about learning from our actions and then not making the same mistakes again.
One of the best managers that I ever worked for at IBM promoted me to an organization that was on the very bottom of all the performance charts across IBM. The office was #359 out of #359 sales offices, in the country. I was not sure I wanted to step into this organization, and I know I was thinking, I am going to fail. My boss said, “The only way you can go is up and you will do it!” WOW, I took a breath and I said YES to the opportunity. We did make it to the top, and we were #5 in the country when I left there after 4 years. Now 30+ years later, looking back at that time in my life, I am so very thankful for that opportunity and for the life and business lessons that it taught me.
So, remember Thomas J. Watson’s advice, double your failures to be more successful and failure is NOT the enemy of success, but the stepping stone!
Darlene Templeton is the CEO and founder of Templeton & Associates as well as the Managing Director of SOS Leadership’s Austin Leading Ladies. She is an executive coach, professional speaker, leadership consultant, trainer and author. She brings her 36 years of experience at IBM, to her work and provides a level of mastery that is extraordinary.