The idea of failing at something conjures a lot of negative feelings, mostly because we’ve been taught that failure is a terrible thing that should be avoided at all costs. DiSC Styles provides a framework for understanding how people’s work styles come into play when it comes to failure. Many stories have revealed that successful businesses and individuals had to travel down the road of failure before arriving at the destination called success. This demonstrates that failure can be used as a learning tool and a stepping stone to success.

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If we don’t give ourselves permission to fail, or create a culture where failure is OK, we never learn what we need to learn to succeed. We need to create a culture where people can fail better, so we can apply what we learn from our failure.

DiSC Styles & Creating a culture where people can fail involves:

  • Being transparent with your team when you fail as a leader.
  • Creating the space for them to talk about their challenges when they fail.
  • Offering a plan of recovery and letting your team know it’s OK to fail provided they can find out what went wrong and learn from it.

Important Things to Note About Failure

Failure is a Great Teacher

Changing one’s perspective to respond positively to failure can turn failure into a learning experience rather than something that should incite giving up or being withdrawn.

Thomas Edison was once referred to as “too stupid to learn anything” by his teachers. Not only that, he got fired from his first two jobs for being unproductive. Today, he is known as the most successful inventor in history, and he is famous for making 1000 unsuccessful attempts to invent the light bulb before finally succeeding.

Another example from our contemporary times is Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. He felt like a public failure when the company he co-founded fired him. But he gained knowledge from that tragic event. “Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me… It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life… It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.”

Failure Can Lead to Innovation

It is through the process of trial and error that innovation emerges. This is why allowing for failure is one of the characteristics of innovative organizations.

In his article,”The Hard Truth about Innovative Cultures,” Gary P. Pisano, Professor of Business Administration and the senior associate dean of faculty development at Harvard Business School, writes that organizations like Google and Amazon have had their fair share of failures. However, they could glean learning experiences from those failures, that set them apart as innovative organizations.

Being afraid to fail or punishing failure will prevent your team from taking necessary risks. You may never know what idea or project could become successful if you don’t risk failing.

People Experience Failure in Different Ways

Miscalculating inventory for a new product would feel like a failure for the person who analyzed the demand and oversaw production, but it would feel like a win for the salesperson who “knocked the launch out of the park.” So how can you help people win from their failures? DiSC Styles provide the framework for understanding how people’s work styles come into play:

D style: People with the D personality style detest failure and fear losing control. When failure occurs, they become volatile and make rash decisions to avoid losing control at all costs. On the flip side, when failure occurs, they can help a team recover from failure quickly.

i style: Colleagues who have the i style personality tend to be very emotional and take things personally, including failure. They may also feel a loss of status when they experience failure. However, when they experience failure, they are very good at devising creative solutions to problems. Their enthusiasm and collaboration will help the team find a solution.

S Style: This personality type avoids failure at all costs and as such they are unlikely to take risks. They prefer to stick to the status quo and will not risk attempting new things that may fail. They also worry about others view them and how they could be negatively impacted. When someone with the S style encounters failure, they can be supportive and are good listeners that will help the team learn from the failure. They will also make sure no one is singled out or blamed for the failure.

C Style: This personality type becomes withdrawn when they fail. This is because they often set high standards for themselves. They fear making mistakes and being wrong and, are likely to spend a huge amount of time on analysis and researching facts and data before taking action. When they fail, they will feel like they didn’t have enough time or resources to do the appropriate analysis. But it’s this tendency for analysis that will help the team figure out what went wrong, and create a through plan to move forward. Their skepticism and accuracy may help avoid failure in the next round.

Knowing your team’s DiSC style will help you lead and manage so they can fail quickly and move on. Learn how you can be effective at managing your team’s response to failure by understanding their DiSC styles here.