By Sam White, founder and CEO of Stella Insurance.
Failure is an unavoidable part of life. I like to think of failure as the necessary underbelly of success. In the absence of failure, how would you determine what your successes are? That might sound like a simplification, and I concede that failure isn’t easy. I know that all too well, having had my fair share of failures in both life and in business. I lost 60% of my business over a six week period in 2013 due to a change in insurance legislation. On the other hand, I’ve rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous living in Beverly Hills and even encouraged Robbie Williams to sing at my first wedding!
Overcoming failure is a key indicator of business agility as it’s not about the failure itself, but what you do to bounce back. Accept that failure is natural as it will make you a better business leader if you handle it right and take the valuable learning points. Here are some of the lessons I live by when it comes to failure.
So, something has failed, maybe you haven’t retained a good management team or there’s a lack of capital or funding. It’s not the end of the world, but it will take a balanced approach to overcome it. Mo Gawdat expresses that every individual has a certain proportion of masculine and feminine energies (irrespective of gender). Masculine left brain characteristics are analytical, focused, results driven. Meanwhile, feminine right brain energy is typified by empathy, intuition, and being. Masculine energy typically exists more in business environments so when leaders with overweighing masculine energy are in crisis, they double down on what they know, e.g., spend more hours trying to fix a problem, put more money into X and Y. However, what’s required is thinking differently. If people are experiencing anger and frustration, creative decision making is inhibited. You must find ways to get into joy and let go of failure, trusting your intuition.
Failure is a disguised opportunity that offers us a choice, are you going to accept a lose-lose outcome and feel sorry for yourself, or are you going to turn it around and win? Our brain has a tendency to give weight to negative experiences more than positive ones. However, this is simply self-indulgent. Process the failure and then start looking forwards again. Lean on your colleagues, friends, and family so you can distance yourself from failure.
Failure is ultimately a lesson in learning how to succeed. However, to learn you need to reflect and that takes practice! It takes deliberate effort to reframe failure in the mind as a positive experience. Failure reveals the changes you need to make to succeed the next time, whether making personal changes or changes to your team and strategy. Use it to plan better for your next attempt.
As a business leader, I try to engage both my masculine and feminine energies (in the spirit of Mo Gawdat!). In traditional business environments, masculine traits tend to dominate. As a result, I also emphasise feminine energies, empathy and intuition, to determine new ways of working and being. By balancing these energies, it’s easier to avoid dysfunction in business and work relationships. I would also recommend working with a corporate psychologist, having done so at Freedom Service Group, and eventually having my corporate psychologist replace me as CEO. I learnt that human relationships are key to solving business problems. While entrepreneurs tend to think they have everything figured out, it’s crucial to receive insight from those with different perspectives and expertise.
Failure is a stepping stone to success and should be used to inform your next decisions. All great entrepreneurs have failed, and, in many cases, they’ve failed more than once so don’t be afraid to try, try again. If you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and how you’ll get there, you will be on the right track. I recommend setting clear expectations of the result and leaning on your intuition, as well as that of trusted team members, to ensure your business is constantly evolving.
A failure could be one of the greatest lessons you ever receive. My own failures have catalysed many of my successes and always drive me to continue onwards and upwards. Go on, I urge you to appreciate your failures and see where they take you. Who knows, success might be right around the corner.