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  • Writer's pictureCharles Crews

Have The Courage to Let Them Fail

We affectionately call our son the “Fresh Prince” from time to time given he is the only boy in our family.  He recently turned 2 and is enjoying every royal moment of his toddler years.

At 10 months old, our anticipation to capture his first steps grew with excitement. His four older sisters walked before 10 months, so we figured his big moment was soon coming. But that time came and went. Eleven months passed and our little prince was still contently scooting around the house. At 13 months, he was cautiously holding on to furniture and grabbing our hands to take steps. 

I became a little neurotic (well, maybe more than a little) and started talking to other parents comparing my son’s progress to theirs. “It’s ok, boys take a little longer” everyone would say with a smile. After our pediatrician confirmed there weren’t any developmental concerns, I started reviewing parenting websites to see what I could do to get the boy walking. It was clear that this was becoming more about me than about him!

One morning I heard this uncontrollable laughter from the family room. When I walked in, he was happily taking steps from the sofa to the chair. It was only 3 or 4 steps but as he went back and forth, he’d pause and look over at me as if to say “Daddy look at me!” He was so proud. The more I cheered the faster he went and the more he laughed.

As I looked on, I fought back tears. Not because he was making those steps alone but because of the joy and excitement he had seeing me celebrate with him. From that point, I didn’t care when he fell down. In fact, I hoped he did fall (and fall often) so I could cheer him on when he picked himself back up.

In business, there are goals and deadlines. Earnings per share, customer satisfaction, and inclusive workplaces must all be achieved. It is our job to deliver those results. This is an expectation that I have and it is one that others have of me. However, if that’s all we focus on, we’ll miss opportunities to recognize the progress being made. Wise leaders understand that this is as important, if not more so, than the accomplishment itself.

I’ve had leaders who allowed me to learn, fail on occasion, and celebrate successes with me. Those experiences and relationships created some of the most significant breakthrough achievements of my career. It takes an abundance of courage to create the type of environment where there is freedom to learn, take risks, and fail.

Our son didn’t walk until 15 months and now he literally runs, jumps, and skips everywhere we go. Like his older sisters, he will be bold and abounding because he will have learned how to fail and he also will have experienced the joy of being celebrated when he succeeds.

Have the courage to let your team learn. Let them experience disappointment and frustration as they stretch for breakthrough achievements. On the other side of their journey awaits amazing accomplishments. Be there with them celebrating their steps along the way and I’m sure you’ll experience a moment of quiet triumph yourself!

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