Fearing failure is a barrier to succeeding

In 2010, EP published a book profiling many of the Industry’s leaders and entrepreneurs. The key lesson from the profiling of over 100 leading players was that failure had played a central role in their success – and yet so many executives have their mindsets dominated by a fear that could, in truth, unleash their potential and talent.

It may sound obvious; it may sound common place but, in the UK especially, there is an absolute fear of failure. This creates a barrier which is both a barrier to personal development and also to business leadership.

Last year, we spoke to 30 corporates and 22 cited that innovation was of real importance to their businesses between Brexit last year and June this year. They wanted to actively encourage disruption within their businesses. Of the 22, only 4 have actually activated real innovation within their businesses.

There are two arguments that come into play at this point:

  • Corporates are risk averse, have developed strong internal processes to manage business and there is simply no chance that disruption will succeed.
  • Change is needed. Leading strategic thinkers are moving beyond a focus on traditional product and service categories to seek out innovations in business processes, distribution, value chains, business models, and even the functions of management.

So which school of thought is correct and will win at the end of the day?

If the former is true, then it suggests that those with vision and open to taking on risk will encounter barriers on their road. If the latter, then company cultures need to also accept that failure will happen and that there needs to be a major change in the cultural psychology of business.

Is there perhaps a half way point that sees increased marriages between corporates and innovators?

Regardless, the danger is that the trend which has seen many feel disengaged with corporate life and desire life with entrepreneurial concerns will only increase. In some ways this is great for businesses as it means that small businesses will thrive and naturally attract talent , whilst the corporates will lose the fight for great talent.

The truth, of course is that both can prosper as business should be led by leaders and not by business process. Leaders do need to stand for more than a well-run company and engage their people to be unafraid of failure. This was one of the bedrocks of the great old Forte Empire which trained its people and would often reassign them rather than sack them.

People need to trust leadership once again but for this to happen, leaders need to stand for more than just their business success.

This is not a healthy result. It is not a simplistic answer but there is a need to place people back at the heart of leadership and to encourage them to express their skills, be accountable and to be prepared to succeed and fail. The vast majority of CEOs and Chairman will accept that they have, at times, failed.

There is a well aired view that the younger generation are not accountable but are they not? Or do they just lack the confidence to take on risk? Is it that the system they grew up in does not allow them for failure or poor results?

Surely Hospitality is first and foremost about leadership, trust and people being empowered to provide great service levels. The fear of failure does need to be released.