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“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” Dennis Waitley

The old coach took a swig of the prominently displayed, league-approved sports drink, sighed, and remarked, “Just too many mistakes today. We had our chances, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. If we are going to play to our potential, we have to cut out the mistakes.”
We have heard that refrain over and over and over. If you Google “we made too many mistakes,” you’ll get 90,000 results. Page after page of this person or that person lamenting that yes, we made too many mistakes to win.

It’s easy to conclude that if making mistakes equals failure, then to succeed, I need to refrain from making mistakes. Makes perfect sense. Right?

Not so fast.

In sales, failure to act is often the biggest failure of all. A sports team that won’t risk mistakes won’t win many games. And the same is true for any organization. Penalties, fouls, errors, and mistakes are a part of the competitive process in sports and business. Not careless mistakes, borne from a lack of preparation or sloppiness but mistakes that result from assertiveness and appropriate calculation of risk.

The team that makes the most mistakes will win. Again, not the careless kind. But those that are from trying new things, getting out of comfort zones, and displaying gutsiness. A team that isn’t making mistakes is suffering from fear of failure and playing not to lose. This timid, apprehensive, cautious approach is a detriment to success.

As a leader, are you helping your team to have a proper relationship with failure? Are you encouraging them to make the right kinds of mistakes, those that come from assertiveness and “learning zone” activities?

If you help your team fail, you’ll help them grow.

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