LSA Global Insights Newsletter: Leadership - Why Defining Failure is Critical to Creating Success

2.28.2015

Leadership - Why Defining Failure is Critical to Creating Success

Leadership - Why Defining Failure is Critical to Creating Success


In school, we get "A's" and "F's." At work we get ambiguity and the consequences are huge.

In school, students know just where they stand on the 5-point grading scale from A to F. They can check their GPA online in real time to know how they are performing. Test scores and homework assignments are routinely posted online each day. Teachers make clear at the beginning of the semester what percent of the final grade is based upon homework, class participation, test scores and extra-credit. Students and parents are also informed about what types of grades, test scores and extra-curricular activities are required to get into specific tiers of colleges. While teachers, reward systems, class sizes and curriculum designs have come under a lot of scrutiny, our education system does not seem to lack clarity in terms of student performance standards.

Performance standards are also clearly delineated in sports. The definition of winning and losing is understood by coaches, players and spectators. The competition is clear. The field of play is agreed to and understood by all. The rules of play are public knowledge. While there are many different approaches to try to beat the competition, the consequences associated with success and failure are clear from the beginning.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the corporate world. At work, the definition of success and failure is often vague and the rules of play (the corporate culture) are often misunderstood, inconsistent and under-leveraged.

Over the last decade, we have asked hundreds of leaders and managers how their success is measured, what constitutes failure and to describe the rules of play. In terms of creating a high performance environment, their answers are alarming.

  • 71% reported that they did not have a clear definition of success.
  • 92% stated that they had no definition of what constitutes failure.
  • 84% described their corporate culture as inconsistent and unaligned with their current business and talent strategies.

Imagine sending your kids to high school not knowing what was expected of them, how their performance would be measured or what was required for entry into their college of choice. Imagine athletes playing in a basketball game where the rules changed during the game. Imagine swimmers competing in a race without knowing where they stand compared to other swimmers or the time clock. How would you help your kids get the most out of their education? How would you effectively coach the basketball team? How would you properly prepare for the next swim competition?

As absurd as it sounds, that is how many employees feel in their jobs.

They do not know where they stand or what is required of them. They do not know if they are over-performing or under-performing. They are unsure what will happen if they over-achieve or under-achieve. This lack of performance clarity creates a significant leadership problem for companies looking to grow.

Read More about How to Clearly Define Success and Failure

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About LSA Global
Founded in 1995, LSA Global is a leading performance consulting and training firm that helps high growth technology, services, and life-science companies create a competitive advantage by powerfully aligning their culture and talent with their strategy. Learn more about getting aligned