Written by Carroll a member of Women Move It Forward
Take a moment to feel in to the next two statements.
-We maintain very high standards.
-We have a zero-tolerance for failure policy.
For me the first statement is an exciting challenge; I love quality. The second fills me with dread; it is an impossible job.
For a good portion of my military career I worked under an official zero-tolerance for failure policy. And if you take a moment to break that policy into pieces and understand the basics of what it means we will understand that while the intention was good the effect is quite negative. Zero tolerance = no willingness to allow.
Tolerance is very important aspect of being human. A policy that has zero tolerance for failure means every single person in that organization has been convicted prior to the crime. It has left each person arguing with themselves on their own guilt or innocence.
Failure is a critical part of life, some of our best lessons come when we fail and to not be allowed to fail crushes any imagination and desire to move forward.
Visible effects of this policy are watching others and sometimes yourself lie and hide any and every mistake. Watching all initiative dissolve until you are left with an organization that grudgingly does less than what they’re told. It creates an atmosphere of tension and stress.
I have spent the last few years in retirement working through my issues around this subject. I have always striven to do the job correctly (any job). I have been somewhat of a perfectionist looking for details inside of details. Recently, I have come across a technique that is helping me to relax and let go of any anxiety that is created around not just my failures, but any and all possible future failures. It is a very simple and powerful tool.
I give myself and others permission to fail. That does not mean that I seek to fail just that I have permission to when the inevitable happens.
I look at myself in the mirror and say “I give you permission to fail.” When I go into a group I look at them and say silently “I give you permission to fail” because if there’s one place were failure occurs frequently it is in communication. So when miscommunication happens, it is very easy for me to forgive because I’ve already given permission. I believe the statement “the only certainty is death and taxes” should be changed to “the only certainty is death, taxes and miscommunication.”
An example of how this tool worked. I’m a member of a Toastmasters group I prepared for a week to present one of my speeches. Prior to the speech, I looked in the mirror and told myself several times “I give you permission to fail. If you fail this speech, no one will die, the economy will continue, and the world will turn.” I started the speech and I felt comfortable and confident. Then presenting the first point I forgot a critical piece; I skipped right over it and of course the rest of the speech referred back to this point. As soon as I realized what I had done I knew I could not recover and just throw the information in where I was. I did an internal dance of keep it, toss it, keep it… for the rest of the points. Many could say that the speech had failed completely. However, I considered it a great success, because I did not panic in the middle of my mistake. My emotions were quite calm even in that world-wind of a dance. My inner critic was out to lunch. I completed my speech. I acknowledge that it was not complete with what I had prepared; yet, I provided information, I gave a valuable demonstration and I received very good feedback.
Yes, as you can see the world is still turning.
Do you have anxiety around failure? If I may make a suggestion: repeatedly give yourself permission to fail and see how your anxiety dissolves.