How failure can be good for your business

Jo Geraghty

Jo Geraghty

Why It Is Good To Fail….at least sometimes
The high achiever mindset is so conditioned to win at everything, all of the time, that whenever we perceived or we’re told that we didn’t quite ‘reach the bar’, regardless of whether it has been placed there by ourselves or by others, we consider that we’re unsuccessful. Whether it’s losing a major client, folding a business or not getting a job that you’ve interviewed for, the repercussions on your confidence levels can be devastating.


The internal dialogue can haunt you for a long time and the little voice in your head can scream failure at every new idea you have. Your thoughts scan every decision made, every conversation had and question your belief in yourself; ‘why did this happen to me?’ Julie had always been successful in life. She had done well academically with a first from Oxford. After finishing University she had immediately been accepted onto a graduate training scheme in one of the top UK financial firms in their Equities Sales Team. She loved her job from the outset and admired and respected her colleagues. She worked with people just like her, young, dynamic, hungry for success and motivated by money.

Very quickly, Julie made her mark at the firm. She found relationship building easy and closing deals for the firm and making them money was second nature. She began to progress up the ranks and earn the recognition of those around her. She was popular with her co-workers and Friday nights were heavy drinking sessions carried out in the name of “team building” and “client relationships”.

A couple of years into her career, Julie met Steve, who worked at one of her Client’s and they hit it off immediately. Both were ambitious, with a work hard, play hard mentality and pushed themselves to the limit. A couple of years later they were married and although the play hard part of their lives had calmed down, the work hard mentality, at least for Julie continued as she advanced her career further and further.

Julie started to work longer and longer hours, choosing to socialise with clients rather than friends. Even having 2 children in short succession didn’t slow her down. She took 3 months maternity leave for each (as her manager had made it clear that any longer than this would have had a detrimental impact on her bonus).

Now earning nearly quadruple Steve’s salary she also organised the home, the various nannies, cleaners and general domestic help. Rarely getting to see her home or any of it’s occupants. Even the limited vacation that she took was mostly spent on her Blackberry emailing and calling the office. Seemingly unaware of the situation she was putting her family in she continued to plough almost 100% of her energy into her career. She thought, “well, they’re enjoying the fruits of my labour.”

She knew that she enjoyed the power and freedom that the money brought her and could also prove to all her around her that she was a rounded person as she had the husband and kids at home to talk about.

By the time Julie came to me she was burnt out, separated and unemployed. Steve was asking for a divorce and fighting for custody of the children that barely knew their mother. The pyramid effect of the corporate world had taken effect (too few jobs at the top) and she had been made redundant from the firm. She was unfit, overweight and didn’t have a single friend that she could pick up the phone to.

Could this be you? If it is, or you’re in danger of treading Julie’s path there are three key axioms you need to remember;

1) Being successful refers to your whole life, not just work & money
Make your high achiever mindset work for you, not against you. Be clear with yourself that to be truly successful you need a whole life – not just a work/money life. And use your ability to be successful in all areas of your life, not just one or two.

2) Be aware of those around you
Take a moment to breathe and look at the people around you. Are you spending time with your family? Do your children know who you are? When was the last time you and your spouse had a “date” that wasn’t work related? Do you have friends and pursuits outside work?

3) Never give 100% to any one pursuit, especially your employer
There’s nothing wrong with doing your best and putting effort and energy into your career but there is more to life than work, and the company owes you nothing other than your next pay cheque. If times change and they no longer need you – they’ll let you go. It doesn’t mean they are evil, mean and nasty – its just business. So make sure you have a balance in your life and store up all your brownie-points in the workplace, look to earn some elsewhere too!

Nobody likes to feel that they’ve failed but it really is the only way that we learn. We refine our internal model and do something different next time. Failure is really the very first step to success. Every successful person has had to overcome temporary defeat at one time or another. Richard Branson is a prime example of someone who has failed multiple times but has bounced back, setting himself a larger and larger challenge every time.

The first time I lost a client, I was in total disbelief. I quizzed myself; ‘I have lots of happy and satisfied clients who are achieving their objectives, making their targets and are happy with the positive influence I’m having on their life so why did this happen to me?’. I felt that I was using my “guaranteed success formula to coaching”. So, why hadn’t it worked this time? After this incident, I listed three things that I could do differently next time and decided that my own failure would actually lead to much greater future success.
And it did.

So here are three key points to remember;

1) You get results where you focus
Your project/business/career/relationships etc. need a 100% of your attention to succeed. If you’re not totally committed to what you’re doing then don’t expect others to be. Focus and refocus on your goals and the steps that you need to turn them into a reality. Taking your eye off the ball is the first step to your downfall.

2) Ask for feedback & accept the need to change
We know what we’re good at, we have case studies galore of things that have gone according to plan but the world evolves, as does the market and our clients. We need to know that we’ll be as good tomorrow as we are today. Constantly ask for feedback and if your employer/client/partner wants something different, the key to success lies in our ability to adapt.

3) Use the full toolkit
Alas there is no one model or formula for success. You need to use the most appropriate style, skill or technique for each, individual situation. Just because one method may work with one client, don’t assume it will work with all.

Remember – failure is really the very first step to success.

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