I am certain every Executive knows, or should know, failures lead to success. The old saying, “show me someone who has never failed and I’ll show you someone who has never done anything!” I am not sure who said that. But I am sure of who said the following,
“I can accept failure; everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
— Michael Jordan
“If you’re 40 years old and you’ve never had a failure, you’ve been deprived.
— Gloria Swanson
And one that should speak very loudly to all of us in leadership positions,
“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.
— Bill Gates
There is one way of failing that does little for providing the way forward to greater success—failing as a result of poor character.
An Executive who has fallen out of grace because of poor character is as if that Executive has been sprayed by a Battalion of Skunks. No matter how much the Executive washes the smell sticks. No one wants you near for fear of the smell tainting others.
Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, recently stepped down as the Chief Executive as a direct result of his behavior. Initially, Kalanick stepped down to give himself and Uber some space and allow time to work on himself. The Board of Directors could not take the smell—he is now out as Uber’s CEO.
In short, the Battalion of Skunks took aim and fired—hitting the target, Kalanick, with sniper-like precision. A lack of values caused Kalanick’s failure.
One may be saying that could not be the case. Uber has no fewer than 14 values. Some well publicized in the Wall Street Journal—“always be hustlin” and “step on toes.” Serious Executives and leaders at all levels know the importance of values personally and organizationally.
Values guide the behavior of the person and the organization. Values are what you stand for; it is the line that does not get crossed. Values speak to the character of the person and the organization.
How can it be that I would argue Uber has no values?
Values are limited in number. What does your organization stand for? What do you stand for? Make a list of ten. Cut that list to five. Define what those five mean to you; once that is done, cut the list to three. Redefine the list if you must. Now—live those three. Model what you expect of others in the organization. Few, if any, will be better than you.
Only three? Yes. We are only human. We all make mistakes. Living up to three is going to be tough for the best of us. Making a laundry list of more than three to five or three to six indicates no values exist. It is simply a list of sound bites; feel good comments. Anything done is ok.
It is a mindset of you rate what you get away with. Having a mindset of “rate what you get away with” is like taking a stroll in front of skunks. You may dodge one but remember there is a Battalion of them waiting.
Executives establish your values. Don’t fail because you have poor character no values. Skunks have a deadly accurate aim. Live your values, and they will never aim at you.