I cannot remember the location, but I remember the story like it was yesterday. A man and his son facing that moment where the son’s right of passage meant an extreme hiking trip with his father. Big hopes and excitement confronted them both. At one point, during the hike, the son strayed from the path and began to stumble down an incline littered with shale. Trying to right himself, the boy began to run faster and faster downhill until he was out of control. His father, knowing that at the bottom of that shale was a drop-off of over one hundred feet, began to give instruction. The boy could not see it nor was he aware of the danger. The father began to scream at the top of his lungs, “Fall Down!” He even extended his arms and legs to instruct the boy in a futile attempt to force the child’s action. “Fall Down! Spread your legs out and fall! NOW! Do it!” Doubtless, all the boy was thinking about is how much pain it meant to fall, and he continued to try to gain his balance. To the father’s horror, the son plummeted to his death.
I remember telling my children that story to reinforce a truth that I wanted them to learn. That is, that they must trust my word and do as I say immediately. There will be times when I know better, even if it hurts.
What a fabulous lesson for us as leaders. Failure is never what we intend. However, if we are going to fail, we really need to fail fast. Prolonging your fall can lead to death. By failing fast, you may be battered and bruised when it is all said and done, but at least you are alive to rebuild.
These lessons go to hundreds of people each week. That means one thing. Some of you are failing! Are you that leader? If it is, you have choices. Call a colleague, a mentor, a coach, or another leader whom you trust. There are many of us who care. We want to help.
Every organizational leader desires to lead transformational change. If that’s you, you will fail in some of your many endeavors. Fail fast. Seek the guidance, pick yourself up, and pour your energies into the idea that seems to be gaining ground. Remember to always measure and assess your failures. If you can, failing fast will make you stronger.