Breedlove's Briefing: To Succeed, Women Must Learn to Fail Forward

April 15 - Stephanie Breedlove

Hi! I’m Stephanie Breedlove, Co-Founder of HomePay, Author and Angel Investor.

I absolutely adore taking an idea and giving it life in the forma business, then leading it to its full potential. Nothing is more fun.(Seriously!)I’d love for every woman who wants to start her own business to say the same thing, so here I am, mentoring millennial entrepreneurs. When I’m not working, I like to recharge and head outdoors to hike, bike, or stand up paddle board!

Is that list of business news and trending articles you’ve tagged still unread? I get it. Allow me to help. Take a couple minutes to read my summary of articles serving the most pertinent, actionable business topics. Or, take 10 minutes to read the full article, and put another brick on the foundation of your growing career.

This Week’s Must-Read:

To Succeed, Women Must Learn to Fail Forward

Who it’s for:

All women at every stage of their career.

Why it’s important:

Let's talk about failing. Despite the widely touted need for more women in leadership roles (and the growing number of programs aimed at getting them to step up), fear of failure often remains an obstacle impeding women's ascent. But it shouldn’t; focusing efforts on avoiding failure by not taking risks isn’t the solution.

You know you’ve taken this approach at one time or another. I know I’m guilty, too. This article proposes that a more productive use of your energy for advancing your career is learning to fail well. Smart.

“You can’t get to the top without significant failure,” says Susannah Wellford, founder of Running Start, which has trained more than 15,000 young women to lead.

“Everybody makes mistakes; you’ve got to own up to it right away and take responsibility.”

One of my favorite mantras is “Own It.” There is power in it. Seriously.

When you lead, the likelihood of failure increases, and resilience becomes necessary. Studies have found that resilience helps leaders succeed and become more effective.

But bouncing back in the face of failure can be an especially fraught challenge for women. Research has shown that women are judged more harshly for their mistakes than men, and they may respond by being more risk averse. As a result, some women may not seize leadership opportunities, and that worries those committed to achieving gender equity.

The question for women leaders is not if they will fail, but how they recover.

“Success is not the absence of failure. Success means you had failure but picked yourself up. We need to move from fail safe to safe fail. It’s the only way to lead,” says Catherine Tinsley, professor at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.

Reshma Saujani provides proof and examples for us to follow. She ran for the House of Representatives in 2010, only to lose in the primary. This defeat led her to start Girls Who Code, which is aimed at closing the gender gap in tech. Today, the organization's programs have reached over 90,000 women. Saujani argues that the “perfect or bust” mentality is a big part of why women remain underrepresented in Congress, the C-Suite, and most other sectors.

Author Rachel Simmons has developed a program at Smith College on how to fail well. She was concerned that people often highlight the importance of embracing failure, but those same people don't provide the skills needed to do so. You can’t lean in unless you know how to get back up when you fall.

Top Take-Away: Failure is not just OK: It is essential for achieving success. Grow skills that allow you to respond to failure well, rather than wasting your energy on avoiding failure. Next step: Find those tips, tools and examples for learning how to fail well.

Here are a few tips and tools to get the learning started:

How to Conquer Fear of Failure

4 Steps to Overcoming Failure and Using to Your Advantage

Are You Risking Enough Failure? How to Fail Forward and Succeed Faster

5 Tips for Failing Forward: Can Setbacks Fuel Future Success

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