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“Failure is NOT an option.” Um. Well, actually…

This week we welcome guest blogger Rob Cannon. Rob is Captain of Engine 7 for the NoDa Charlotte Fire Department.

“Failure is not an option!”

In the movie Apollo 13 these are the words NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz uses to rally his team of rocket scientists as they worked to save the crew of Apollo 13 (see the awesome Apollo 13 clip here-   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhoXFVQsIxw).

But the hard truth of the matter is that with any goal, failure IS an option (otherwise the “goal” is a “given” and not a very good goal, right?).

When leaders set goals, they should examine the following questions:

  1. Is this goal achievable? (that’s the “A” in the SMART goal acronym)
  2. What things could prevent achieving this goal?
  3. What are solutions to get around the things that might prevent achievement?

And finally the tough question

  1. As a leader, what will I SAY and DO if we do NOT achieve the goal?

Will you regroup and retry?  Pack up the tent and go home? Will you seek to inspire? Or seek to retire?

Presumably your team is going to devote a lot of time, talent and treasure to achieving your collective goal(s) this year.  They deserve a deeply-considered response whatever the outcome.  The time to develop that response is well ahead of time, before you are under the influence of emotional swings that might accompany victory or defeat.

Leadership is never more important than during a failure.   Here is a good article from The Atlantic that provides insight into some leaders’ plans had they NOT achieved the desired goals:

What will you want to communicate if you do NOT achieve your goals this year?  What will you say?  What will you write?  What will you do?  Plan now so you’ll be ready if you miss your goal.


1 thought on ““Failure is NOT an option.” Um. Well, actually…”

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