Yes, I just fell down on the ice in front of the post office and I mean I FELL – feet out from under me, landed on my back, made an “ugh” sound as I hit kind of fall down.
Trying to get back up was the trick, as people were so busy trying to act like they didn’t notice my humiliation, nobody approached me. I was like a turtle on, spinning around reaching for dry ground to get some leverage.
I laughed all by myself, and then walked in to face the stone-like faces of post office employees who were probably figuring a lawsuit would be next. No lawsuit, just a small revelation.
As I re-lived the moment, I thought about how many times I fell as a kid. I mean slamming, hard falls on my bicycle (one resulted in a concussion), on my roller-skates, on my tricycle. Yes, I remember losing control of my tricycle and plowing it into my grouchy neighbor’s rose bushes. That incident was literally a thorn in my side.
But I also remember that I fell because I was taking risks — trying that new gymnastics move, learning to lean in for fast turns on my bike, trying to jump a sidewalk crack on my roller skates, and letting go of the pedals of my tricycle while going down hill. In each incident, the fall brought me one step closer to mastering a new skill.
As I work with organizations involved in transitional change, I have realized that many teams aren’t succeeding because they haven’t been given the chance to fall. They have learned that even the smallest failure is met with rolled eyes and retribution from a risk-adverse manager.
If more people were allowed to fall, change would be imminently more successful. I’m not talking about Enron-sized failures; that failure was actually the result of people not admitting they had fallen. I’m talking about people taking chances to do more than they originally thought they could do.
As a leader of change, you have to let people know that every new venture will be filled with falling before you stand beside your success. And, if anyone claims to have changed without failure – they haven’t really changed anything. Failure is proof that something new has been tried, and it is one road sign leading to the right end-result. I like to think of it as “falling up.”
The next time you are leading people through change, do the following:
See, one fall at the post office and I have remembered some important lessons. I have practiced the art of “falling up.” Now if only my back could feel as good as my soul :).