Failure is a part of life, but for many people, especially women, failure is simply not an option. This is premise of a fantastic book called, “Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder,” by Reshma Saujani.
Saujani argues that girls are taught to play it safe, be perfect, and never fail. In comparison, boys are taught to play rough, be tough, take risks, and always get up when they fall. This dichotomy in socialization teaches girls to grow into women who are afraid to take risks and fail, and boys to grow into men that aren’t affected by failure, and who view risk-taking and bold business moves part of everyday life. Its not surprising then, that boardrooms and political parties are still predominately male.
As a mother of two daughters and a senior leader at an agency of smart and strong young professionals, who all happen to be female, I think the message of this book is crucial. Failure needs to be reframed so that we accept it as an integral part of our growth. We need to embrace failure and push ourselves outside our comfort zones. It’s in this space that we can truly thrive.
Here’s five tips on how to foster bravery and embrace failure as it relates to PR:
- Think big. Leverage blue-sky thinking, what would you do for your client or agency if budget was no question? Thinking this way fosters what Reshma calls a “bravery mindset.” If we don’t limit ourselves with parameters like budget or time, we can free creative thinking. You can always reign in an idea once it is crafted to fit within your available resources. At an agency retreat once year we visualized a five-year dream plan and were pleasantly surprised when many of the items we wrote down materialized within the timeline.
- Try something new. Never stop learning. Our industry is rapidly changing and accepting this without fear and learning new skills will help you stay relevant. Brainstation offers comprehensive online digital marketing classes, Coursera has amazing free courses on topics like leadership, design thinking and social media marketing. Or sign up for a video editing course that will help drive compelling social media content.
- Strive high. Don’t be afraid to go after the big win – whether that’s a sexy client, securing a feature media article in an outlet that always says no, developing a new service offering, or asking for a well-deserved promotion. If you don’t try, you don’t get. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone says no or it doesn’t work, and you move on. Keep trying and eventually you will achieve success.
- Ask why five times: When something goes wrong, and invariably it will – whether it’s a campaign that fell short of its objectives, a client that moves on to another agency, or internal challenges working with a colleague – its important to debrief. Debriefing following a failure lets us reassess and realign. By examining what went wrong, we can prevent it from reoccurring in the future.
- Celebrate failure: Create a culture where failure is celebrated. It you failed at something, it means you tried something, and that should always be encouraged. It’s okay to admit that something didn’t work, but still applaud the effort. A great way to embrace and encourage failure is to discuss it openly as a team. You can explore what happened, why it happened, and then share what you have learned from the experience.
Watch Saujani’s TED Talk on this subject manner. We highly recommend it! And remember, a failure is only a fail if it prevents you from trying again.