How Does Your Team Treat Failure

Like so many parents, I spent the weekend sitting, watching, and cheering for my child’s team. Swimming consists of being in hot pool areas, watching races for sometimes hours, only to see your kiddo swim for a minute or less. It can be long and boring followed by short bursts of energy, but well worth it!

This weekend I spent three full days watching swim meets, starting mid-afternoon Friday and going through Sunday. There were teams of varying sizes from around the region. It was fun to see kids of all ages and abilities compete. It also feels like I was at a rock concert from the ringing in my ears!

This weekend’s swim meets also brought a couple things into focus as it relates to teams and how they deal with failure. Two incidents happened to two teams, with two different reactions. Both happened during relays.

The first was a swimmer jumped into the water and must have turned funny on the dive because he popped up in the wrong lane! I’ve never seen that before, nor had others around me. On his turn at the wall, he was surprised to see another swimmer coming at him. Realizing his mistake, and changed lanes. Needless to say, they were disqualified. The second was a swimmer jumped in during the Individual Medley (all four strokes by four different people) and immediately started doing the wrong stroke! Four strokes in, he realized the mistake and corrected. Stroke violation. Disqualified.

Both of these incidents resulted in DQ’s, no points for their teams, and disappointment. The team’s reaction to the failures, though, were very different. The person who popped up in the wrong lane was yelled at by some of his team members. I mean it was bad enough where an official needed to tell them to stop or there would be team consequences. He felt bad enough already. Rock, meet bottom. He eventually sat on the bench and only got up to swim one more race, then back down again.

The person who did the wrong stroke went back to his bench and put his head down. The entire team huddled around him, put their arms together, and let him know it was OK, no one was mad, and let’s pick ourselves up and move forward. He came back to take 2nd place in an individual event and 3rd in another relay. With the help of his team, he recovered and went on to swim great races.

No one is infallible. We all make mistakes. I don’t know anyone who wakes up in the morning and says “I really hope I f* up bigtime today!!” Instead, we work hard and try our best.

When the inevitable happens, how will your team react to failure? Will there be yelling and blaming? Or, will the team rally together and move forward? This weekend’s events were a good reminder that when a team comes together after a failure, they can still recover and do great things!

Success! You're on the list.

One thought on “How Does Your Team Treat Failure

  1. I’ll never forget an experience with a client several years ago (back when we printed a lot of materials). A phone number was incorrect. And when I say incorrect, I mean when a person called the wrong phone number, it went to a place that wasn’t an appropriate place to call. Instead of the client yelling or placing blame, the client went right to how we will fix this. We all took responsibility for the error as many people had proofed the printed item. And we all figured out a solution. Had I been yelled at, I might not be willing to share the lessons learned even years later.


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