Defining Acceptable Failure
I received an email from a print shop owner who had registered one of his salespeople into a training program of mine. The rep had quit the previous Friday and the manager was lamenting about what he saw as a “failure.”
I responded, “What makes you say it was a failure? When asked about his repeated inability to create a working lightbulb Thomas Edison replied, ‘I have not failed. I have simply found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’”
Sometimes, the best thing that can come out of sales training is that the rep flushes out and either quits or is terminated. I never see this as a failure. I see this as saving money since most times a manager will hang on to a failing rep simply to avoid going through the process of hiring again. Holding one’s feet to the fire (i.e. adding accountability) exposes a lack of activity and brings fixable problems to the surface.
That’s not failure.
Failure, I have been taught to believe, can only happen when the lack of effort exists. If a sales rep tries his or her hardest — I mean they leave nothing on the field — and they don’t make it, I have full respect for that person. For that is not failure. That rep has found one job that they are not capable of doing. Time to try something else!
Go ahead and fail, but work as hard as you can. If you don’t make it, you have nothing to hang your head over. That is acceptable failure.
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