Failure comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you go down slowly, over time, with one pinhole leak after another slowly draining all the buoyancy away, until you’re sunk. Other times, it’s a big fat iceberg. The little things can be hard to keep track of, but fortunately for the prepared, there are straightforward ways to keep your eyes peeled for the big kinds of blunders – and make sure you never make them.
Work as a team
More heads are always better than fewer, which is a good place to start if you want to avoid mistakes. It’s an eternal truism: even the smartest person can overlook something, up to and including something critically important – but a team of people can provide the kind of oversight you can’t get any other way. Even if you’re in business for yourself, consult others as often as possible, especially on major decisions. There’s no safety like a fresh perspective. This is one of the reasons we created Ideator: to give you fresh eyes on things.
Keep the numbers as your true north
We all know you can never go strictly by the numbers. Real leadership calls for tacking against the wind sometimes: traveling obliquely instead of directly. But nevertheless, facts are facts are facts. You have to keep a close eye on every metric you have – market research, consumer trends, investment patterns – and see things how they are. Even if your plan is radical and you want to dip down before going up, you still have to know which way is up.
Listen to feedback
Sometimes things that made all the sense in the world on paper just don’t work out in practice. You can have a lot of faith in a project, and a lot invested in it, and it can still go wrong. To avoid the biggest blunders, you have to know when to cut your losses when it’s still a small mistake. Don’t let your hope or your passion for a project keep you deaf to its potential for failure. Listen to all the feedback, and be ready to change your mind if you hear something you don’t want to hear. Things don’t always work out the way you want them to, and sometimes you need someone else to tell you that. Pay attention when they do.
Have a doomsday plan
If things do go wrong, you can’t be left unprepared. Once the hull is breached, damage control can mean the difference between problem and catastrophe. Think through the worst contingencies early in your project management timeline. Have a strong idea of what you’ll be willing to do and what you won’t. Knowing how you’ll behave going in will make the shock a lot easier to absorb, and it’ll mean far better results for you and the entire business. It might even mean the difference between sinking and weathering the storm to sail another day.