Embracing Failure: Insights from the Women in Transformation Breakfast

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Last week, S&S hosted another Women in Transformation breakfast in the North, discussing the powerful theme of how failure can drive success in the business world. Inspired by Elizabeth Day’s podcast, “How to Fail,” this event brought together senior women in transformation to share their insights and strategies for embracing failure and turning it into growth. The honesty and openness of the attendees was truly inspiring, highlighting that failure isn’t a defeat but a stepping stone to success. This blog outlines some of the key themes that resonated with me:


Understanding Failure and its value

We kicked off the session by going around the room and sharing our own failures and what we have learnt from them. This sparked a thought-provoking discussion about what makes a ‘good failure’ versus a ‘bad failure.’ A Harvard Business Review article was cited, noting that venture capitalists expect up to 80% of their investments to fail. An example was shared of an investor investing in 100 failed company’s but one massively successful organisation (like google), highlighting the importance of seeing failure as part of a bigger picture and considering the context of the journey along the way.

One attendee shared a fantastic quote from scientist Brian Cox: “Real scientists are delighted when they find out they are wrong. And to me, that is one of the greatest gifts that a scientific education can bring.” This quote led to a number of us sharing how recognising a failure led to new opportunities or necessary strategic shifts within the workplace – emphasising that failing is a crucial part of learning. After all, every day is a school day!


Resilience culture across work and home

Resilience was a hot topic. Participants shared tips for maintaining a positive mindset and pushing forward despite challenges. We emphasised the importance of seeking support from colleagues or mentors and staying focused on long-term goals. As well as being honest with ourselves and our role in the failure. This led to a broader conversation about creating a culture where team members feel safe to take calculated risks and try new ideas, even if failure is a possibility. We agreed that leadership plays a crucial role in fostering an environment where innovation is encouraged, and setbacks are seen as learning opportunities, highlighting the difficulty sometimes felt in stepping back and allowing things to go wrong as a way of learning.

The group reflected on how failures in one’s personal life can significantly influence their business life and vice versa. Stories were shared of how personal setbacks had unexpected repercussions on their performance at work and conversely, business failures, like a missed promotion, often spilled over into their personal lives, affecting self-esteem and relationships. This dual impact, while challenging, can be a powerful driver in encouraging a holistic approach to development, fostering a more resilient and adaptable mindset. One practical idea shared was mapping out your ‘wall of work and life,’ using sticky notes to prioritise both work and personal tasks and see where they overlap.

The Women in Transformation breakfast was a great reminder that failure isn’t the end but an essential part of the journey to success. By embracing failure, learning from it, and promoting a culture of calculated risk-taking and resilience, we can drive innovation and growth in both our personal and professional lives.

We’re excited to keep these important conversations going and support each other in our journeys of transformation and success.


If you’d like to know more about our Women in Transformation Community, we’d love to hear from you at [email protected] or visit https://www.sullivanstanley.com/women-in-transformation/ for more information.

Ellie Jarvie
Written by Ellie Jarvie
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