Back to resources

Fostering a Culture That Celebrates Failures and Successes Equally

Managing Expectations
Company Culture
Team Reaction

18 August, 2020

Lakshmi Baskaran
Lakshmi Baskaran

VP of Engineering at SEDNA Systems

Lakshmi Baskaran, VP of Engineering at SEDNA Systems, describes how to foster a culture that equally celebrates failure and success. She discusses initiatives that organizations can adopt to encourage teams to try innovative ideas without being fearful of being judged for failed outcomes.

Problem

Many organizations are trying to inculcate a culture that will enable teams to experiment with new ideas. Despite those efforts, teams are often reluctant to do so and continue to fear failure.

Actions taken

In our organization, we had numerous conversations with our teams about how failures were an integral part of success and how it was important to speak about failure as much as we talk about success. During our one on ones and town halls, we discussed how failures provide us an opportunity to learn. We would emphasize that failures are not considered as a negative outcome, but people were still hesitant to venture into new initiatives.

We decided to be unequivocally clear about the intentions and why it mattered. So we organized “Fuckup Evenings”, an event that encourages everyone to talk about failures - big or small, minuscule or disastrous. The objective of the event is to encourage people to not feel shameful in talking about their failures. Our engineers discussed simple failures like a code that poorly performed and complex ones that lead to our platform being down for a few hours. Most of us who were reluctant to speak about failures, enjoyed listening to others describe their failures and had a good laugh.

Some people were more reluctant to share their failures than others. It is human nature to not talk about failures due to the fear of being judged. We invited people from the leadership team to talk about their catastrophic failures in their careers. When executives opened up and were not embarrassed to talk about how they caused some of the disastrous failures, many engineers felt it was acceptable to speak up about theirs. “Fuck up Evening” is an event that we all look forward to.

Lessons learned

  • Once people became more willing to talk about their past failures, talking about current challenges and failures became more acceptable in the organization. When people knew that they can try and fail -- and that failing is okay -- they were more eager to try daring ideas and venture into new directions. They also were confident that they would not be judged or criticized if their new initiatives failed. It is also important to set some acceptable boundaries towards failures. cannot be working on a project for years knowing that it has a high likelihood of failure. Therefore, it is important to coach people on how to foresee failures and abandon the projects or initiatives that show early signs of the failed outcomes.
  • Many companies are still only paying lip service and lack actionable initiatives that would make real change. Talking about embracing failures is not enough -- it is important to show them in action.
  • In conservative organizations where failures are looked down upon, the effort lies on the leadership team to foster this culture. Leaders need to step up and speak about how they embraced failures and went past it. It all starts with one influential leader to start the initiative that will lead the rest of the company to follow suit.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

Leaving Room to Say Things Suck — Leadership Lessons from “Ted Lasso”

17 August

A major sign of trust, comfortability, and vulnerability is for someone you lead to be able to say something sucks.

Building A Team
Company Culture
Leadership
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
John Hartley

John Hartley

Senior Engineering Manager at Curology

How to Maintain Happiness: The Underrated Aspect of Creating Team Dynamic

2 August

Jonathan Ducharme, Engineering Manager at AlleyCorp Nord, encourages the importance of a workplace environment that cultivates mental wellness.

Personal Growth
Company Culture
Leadership
Internal Communication
Psychological Safety
Jonathan Ducharme

Jonathan Ducharme

Engineering Manager at AlleyCorp Nord

Scaling a Team in Two Parts: The Product and Manager

2 August

Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti, Sr Engineering Manager at Instacart, walks through his experience scaling a team, product and his skills as a leader.

Managing Expectations
Product
Scaling Team
Leadership
Meetings
Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti

Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti

Sr Engineering Manager at Instacart

How to Organize, Manage, and Grow Your Team

12 July

Vineet Puranik, Senior Engineering Manager at DocuSign, discusses the impact of roadmaps, organization, and proper management for your teams to procure growth.

Managing Expectations
Delegate
Collaboration
Roadmap
Strategy
Vineet Puranik

Vineet Puranik

Senior Engineering Manager at DocuSign

Leading A (Distributed) Team? Foster "Above the Line" Behaviors.

12 July

No online tool will address your team's ability to connect, collaborate, and deliver results if the individuals don't bring the right mindset to work.

Changing A Company
Building A Team
Company Culture
Leadership
Ownership
Ram Singh

Ram Singh

CTO at REAL Engagement & Loyalty