Richard Branson’s Secrets to Leadership
“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.”
Why would you encourage, or even celebrate, failure?
Quite simply, failure is the foundation for growth and innovation, and innovation is critical to long-term success. Every time a person, a team, or a company tries something new and fails, valuable data is gathered. In that data are clues to potential future success.
Yet most companies have a culture that penalizes missed goals, “wasted” spend and projects that don’t turn out as expected. When failure is associated with a derailed career, workers naturally play it safe.
“We’ve never been 100% sure that any of the businesses we’ve started at Virgin were going to be successful. But over 45 years, we’ve always stood by our motto: ‘Screw it, let’s do it’.”
And indeed, Branson has experienced many company-level failures along the way including: Virgin Bride, Virgin Cola, Virgin Cars, Virgin Vie (cosmetics), Virgin ware (lingerie), and Virgin Pulse (digital music player). He’s in good company of course. There are many other notable product failures including New Coke, Apple LISA, and McDonald’s Hula Burger.
“Making mistakes and experiencing setbacks is part of the DNA of every successful entrepreneur, and I am no exception.”
The term “fail fast” has emerged from Silicon Valley business practices recently. It doesn’t mean we should hope for failure, or be happy when startups collapse. Rather, it means we should foster a culture of experimentation. An approach to marketing, product R&D, even culture design itself that is tolerant of risk and negative outcomes in an effort to adapt—to evolve—to a rapidly changing environment.
Does your team fear making mistakes?
Or do they fear missing out on opportunities?
Mission Over Money “It’s a common misconception that money is every entrepreneur’s metric for success. It’s not, and nor should it be.”
All else being equal, people would rather work for a purpose than a paycheck. Knowing that your day- to-day work aligns with the greater mission of the organization dramatically changes the way we feel about that work.
“From my very first day as an entrepreneur, I’ve felt the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make people’s lives better.”
Dr. Steve Taylor, writing for Psychology Today, says “The need for purpose is one the defining characteristics of human beings. Human beings crave purpose, and suffer serious psychological difficulties when we don’t have it. Purpose is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life.” He goes on to site the number of athletes who fall into alcohol, drugs and other vices as they struggle to find meaning after their professional career comes to an end.
“There’s no point in starting a business unless you’re going to make a dramatic difference to other people’s lives. So if you’ve got an idea that’s gonna make a big difference to other people’s lives, then just get on and do it.”