Resolutions at workBy Jesse Goldman on January 17, 2011 in Thought Leadership
It’s mid-January. How are you doing with your new year’s resolutions? If you’re looking to get ahead in 2011 and get more recognition for your work, check out these two articles. They seem to contradict each other, but taken together they may actually help you achieve your goals.
Like most people you’ve probably made aspirational resolutions. That’s what I did and that’s why this post by Alicia Morga for FastCompany caught my eye. Morga makes a great argument for why we should resolve to fail: “I realize failure is, in our culture, the other F word, but it can also be another word that starts with F: freeing.”
The problem is that we spend so much time working for positive feedback and recognition. We become too careful as we strive to get things “right:”
“Failure, unfortunately, has a lot of power. It scares us so much it can actually prevent us from taking action and when we do act, it can stop us in our tracks and force retreat where there was once persistence.”
So how is failure “freeing” (aside from the obvious implication that it might free you from your job)? Well, it’s better than that. A lot better. Because failure helps us learn, and learn faster than we might otherwise. It’s really stressful to fail but I’ve experienced this first hand: trying something and being mindful of the lessons learned can be a faster path to achieving our goals. Here’s Morga’s advice:
“Aim to fail. Put yourself in a situation at the edge of your comfort zone. Resolve to try something and really suck at it. You might learn something new and interesting about yourself–like, half the fun is in the effort or that you can be knocked down and get back up.”
Morga’s advice reminded me of a great article on HBR blogs by Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer. Dr. Pfeffer advises that: “When it comes to job performance…perception becomes reality. This implies that you ought to manage your image and reputation as well as your actual work.”
I had a tough time reconciling this with Alicia Morga’s advice to “resolve to fail.” After all, we’re naturally gratified by positive feedback and we want to be recognized for our work. I still think it’s OK to fail and learn quickly. Thing is, it’s really important to shape the perceptions of your “failures” too.
This means proactively sharing updates on what you’re working on and the lessons learned. Share status updates often, recognize achievements of people on your team and share the lessons from your efforts.
Dr. Pfeffer advises that:
“There is an obvious lesson for you in this: don’t assume that anyone — your boss, your peer, or your subordinate — knows the good work you are doing. They are all probably focused on their own jobs and concerns. Do things to let them know.”
In my experience the same applies to the things you’ve done (or tried) that didn’t work out so well.
Photo of champagne byNad Renrel. Licensed under CC.