Require People to Fail
People flourish when they’re confident. When self-doubt fills someone, they perform at a level lower than their natural proven ability. So, require them to fail. If this sounds weirdly intriguing, read on.
A common military tactic is called “shock and awe.” The idea is to display overwhelming fire-power so that the enemy loses the will to fight. One force takes away the confidence of their opponent, and the opponent forgets or refuses to use what they know. Almost everyone knows what a slump or a brain freeze feels like. You may have test anxiety, for example. Lack of confidence can paralyze you no matter what the cause or context.
In management, we often use shock and awe as a tactic to motivate. We threaten bad performance with equally bad consequences. Sometimes we pressure ourselves. “I have to get out of this slump.” “Come on, think!” As Dr. Phil says, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”
What if you have a direct report or co-worker who lacks confidence? First, let’s all admit we lack confidence. Even the most self-assured person has feet of clay. You may hide your insecurities better than others, but those insecurities plague you just the same. How do you help someone (even yourself) move forward?
I suggest that you require someone to fail. The irony of succeeding at failure makes me smile. If a non-confident person is required to fail 3 times a week, what happens? They meet their failure quota, and they succeed. If they don’t meet the failure quota, it’s because they succeeded. Either way, a small victory like this might increase his/her confidence.
Here’s a bigger issue. If you succeed all the time, you’re probably living a very measured life where you don’t try big things.
At NASA mission control in Houston, they simulate problems that can develop in flight. Often they throw multiple problems at the crew all at once. They want to make sure they can handle adversity with a calmness that allows them to work the problem instead of letting the problem work them. Once they prove themselves, they are ready for the real mission.
Failure can prepare you for your real mission.