Embrace Your Mistakes: The Upsides to Non-Linear Progress

Embrace Your Mistakes: The Upsides to Non-Linear Progress

When analyzing data and planning for the future, it’s tempting to aim for smashing success and nothing less.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s admirable to reach for the stars. But the reality is that organizational success isn’t always well-defined by black-and-white metrics, and there certainly isn’t one straight-line path to get there.

Today, I’m going to look at the benefits of non-linear progress and explore why effective leaders need to get extremely comfortable traversing this journey.

Surrender to the Indefinite Nature of Progress

You’ve probably seen the graphic: on the left, there is a graph showing a straight-line upward trajectory representing success. It is labeled “what you think success looks like.” On the right, there is a squiggly line that loops and doubles back on itself but eventually ends up following an upward trend, just like the one on the left. This side is labeled “what success actually looks like.” This simple image contains a powerful message.

It’s easy to expect improvements to be more or less consistent, but that is hardly ever the case. Adjusting your expectations surrounding the rate and trajectory of success is necessary for leaders to stay resilient through all the ebbs and flows that will inevitably come. If you know you will face failure along the way, you’re less likely to react emotionally and make panicked decisions that negatively impact progress over time.

There Are Three Basic Ingredients for Success

Because of how I was raised by my parents I like to say that the three necessary ingredients for success are hard work, perseverance, and the investment of time. Hard work is how you and your team move the boulder forward. But even the best efforts can still lead to less-than-perfect results. That’s where perseverance comes into play.

Your company can end up oscillating between hard work and perseverance for a long time. And with that, the third requirement for success is fulfilled: investment of time. Many other factors affect whether an organization can reach the success they’re aiming for, but no matter what consultants you bring in or new strategies you deploy, you will always need a foundation of effort, tenacity, and time spent with relentless resolve.

Mistakes Enrich the Road to Success

Success in the absolute absence of failure is either airbrushed for the public eye or a rare bout of dumb luck you can never replicate. Either way, achievement free of mistakes does little to bolster long-term progress. The world’s most effective and even-keel leaders always keep in mind that there is no achievement worth reaching without missteps and setbacks along the way.

Failures, both large and small, serve as invaluable feedback no matter how uncomfortable they are. They can show you where your weak spots are and, therefore, what areas you need to focus on next. To gain these insights leaders must look at each defeat head-on and dig deeper to understand why it happened and what revisions to make moving forward. Without this analysis and subsequent action, the same kinds of setbacks have the potential to become chronic and inhibit progress indefinitely.

Intentional Company Culture Is the Secret Sauce

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the importance of culture and its impact on growth. Striving for success without first establishing the kind of company culture that’s going to support that journey is self-sabotaging.

Culture is the foundation of function within any organization. For everyone to move towards the same goals, there has to be a strong, consistent culture that guides all team members, from the top leadership down.

It’s leadership’s job to design a workplace environment that fosters transparency, collaboration, and resilience. If you’re looking for a place to start, I recommend reading my blog on how to establish a culture that can grow organically. Whatever intentional culture you land on, it’s imperative that leaders embody it through their actions and attitudes. Without leadership buy-in, there’s little chance that the desired culture will evolve as intended.

Perfect Your Recipe

In conclusion, the road to success is not easy or straight. Leaders who accept this discomfort will be less shaken by obstacles and more likely to achieve their goals in the end. Hard work, perseverance, and an investment of time are non-negotiables. They must be included in your recipe for progress. Mistakes will only help you if you harness their insights. Culture is the secret sauce for success built over years and even decades.

Originally posted on Forbes.com