This week I am so proud to introduce you to the first of our guest contributors sharing their experience of embracing failure. I met Athena Emert Gray what feels a lifetime ago when she stepped forward to be one of the co-authors of The Pay it Forward Series: Notes to My Younger Self volume 2 back in 2018 when she shared a moving story of the power of letting go of control. What has always blown me away about Athena is her unwavering resilience and the life she has cultivated for herself, so please read on and share this piece as it will resonate with so many.
As a mother of two entering the empty-nest stage, I embarked, like many other mothers on a journey of self-discovery, seeking joy and purpose in my life. Along the way, I discovered a deep passion for helping others, and realized that empowering mothers to rediscover their dreams and become beacons of love and acceptance for their families was my calling. This journey has also led me to transform my perspective on failure and feedback, which I believe holds valuable lessons in the business world also.
In the corporate world, I have often witnessed, firsthand, a pervasive fear-based culture that has stifled innovation and growth, with many employees afraid to make mistakes, fearing the consequences it might have on their job security. Over time, this fear not only inhibits their true potential but can also lead to cover-ups and a complete lack of transparency within organizations. However, often the smallest shifts in the way we approach failure, cannot only create a safe space for our employees to share their concerns, but also create immense improvements that we as a business, may not have ever considered.
In the organization I work for we utilize Yammer, an internal platform that encourages open dialogue among employees. One day, a conversation unfolded on Yammer addressing the area of the business I was responsible for. It began with one person expressing dissatisfaction, and soon, more than 50 employees joined the discussion, raising concerns and sharing their experiences. And it wasn’t just the 50 employees that voiced their concerns that worried me, it was the 1,000 others who had read the information being shared but stayed silent. I knew this was not something we could just shuffle under the carpet. It had to be addressed directly.
In the past, such a situation would have sent me spiraling into panic and defensiveness. I would have viewed it as a personal attack on my capabilities, fearing the potential consequences for my job. However, through my journey of self-reflection and personal growth, I have learned to embrace feedback and see it as an opportunity for improvement rather than a personal attack.
Instead of hiding or dismissing the complaints, I chose a different path. I approached the situation with transparency and genuine curiosity. I reached out to each individual who expressed dissatisfaction, not with the intention to defend myself but to genuinely understand their perspectives and find ways to address their concerns. This proactive approach not only demonstrated my willingness to listen but also empowered the employees to share their feedback openly.The impact was remarkable.
By actively engaging with our employees and incorporating their feedback into our decision-making process, we were able to redesign the program that had been criticized and create a solution that aligned more fully with their needs and expectations. Throughout this process, I witnessed firsthand the power of embracing failure and how you can turn it into a catalyst for success.
Feedback, even in the form of complaints, offers us a unique gift, providing valuable insights into unmet expectations and areas for improvement. Employees are often expected to accept feedback during annual reviews, but businesses never ask employees for their annual review. Rather than taking criticizm personally, business leaders have an opportunity to embrace feedback and view it as a potential avenue for growth. By shifting our perspective, we can turn complaints into catalysts for innovation and make necessary improvements to our products, services, and processes.
Mothers have a unique perspective on failure. They understand the importance of allowing their children to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow. Similarly, in the business world, we should create environments that embrace failure as a learning tool. Just as mothers lead with love, patience, and acceptance, business leaders can foster an atmosphere that encourages employees to be brave, seek feedback, and continuously improve.
A fear-based culture inhibits creativity, innovation, and growth. Business leaders can create fear-free environments where open communication and transparency thrive, encouraging employees to voice their opinions, share their concerns, and contribute to the growth of the business without fear of reprisal. By fostering a safe space for open dialogue, businesses can unlock the full potential of their teams and create an atmosphere of trust and collaboration.
Embracing failure and learning from it is not only essential for personal growth but also crucial for businesses to thrive. By embracing a mother’s approach of love, acceptance, and learning from mistakes, business leaders can create an environment that encourages bravery, feedback, and continuous improvement. Let us shift our perspective, embrace failure with open arms, and unlock the transformative power it holds.
So how can your business embrace failure and transform it into success?
Shift Your Perspective: See failure as an opportunity for growth and learning rather than a personal reflection of your abilities.
Embrace Feedback: View complaints and feedback as valuable insights for improvement. Listen actively and engage in meaningful dialogue with those who express concerns.
Foster a Fear-Free Environment: Encourage open communication and transparency within your organization. Create a safe space for employees to voice their opinions and contribute to the growth of the business.
Learn from Mistakes: Instead of hiding or covering up mistakes, acknowledge them openly and seek ways to learn from them. Embrace a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.
Adapt and Refine: Use the feedback received from failure to refine your approach, whether it’s in your personal life or professional endeavors. Embrace flexibility and be open to trying new strategies.
By embodying the principles of love, acceptance, flexibility, and growth, we can create a work environment where individuals are motivated, engaged, and inspired to reach their full potential. Through this transformation, we can build resilient organizations that not only survive but thrive in the face of challenges, all while fostering a culture that mirrors the unconditional love and acceptance we strive to embody as parents.
Athena Emert Gray works for a fortune 500 company as a leave and disability expert. She is also an experienced life coach and co-author of the international best-selling book, “Paying It Forward: Notes to My Younger Self.” Athena shares her invaluable knowledge, insights, in a free workbook, “No. 1 Secret to Your Happiest Day Ever,” download your copy off her website, www.aegandco.com and learn to create more happy days.