Posted on Apr 23, 2015
CPT Quartermaster Officer
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In my time in the service, I've seen essentially two main views on "failure" that are seemingly diametrically opposed. In a time of significant draw down, due to the transition of the military to a peace time military, the concept of "failure" in a career seems to be coming to a serious head.

NOTE: Though anything we do in life can be technically seen as a "mission", I'm not really talking about "failure" in terms of mission failure, in the operational sense. This post is more about personal failure/mistakes/shortcomings.

Here is what I have seen:
--"Failure" is GOOD. Those who have made mistakes, and have learned from them, are actually better positioned/experienced than those who have never made mistakes. The increasing emphasis on resiliency (resiliency training, etc) SEEMS to inherently accept that failure and mistakes are inevitable, but, it is how we deal with/handle those failures and mistakes that define us as a person.

VS.

--"Failure" is BAD. As I read more threads/discussions on RallyPoint...namely those related to separation/drawdown issues, it would seem that, in the eyes of the military, "failure" is now a BAD thing. Those who have made mistakes/failed, but have learned from those mistakes--even if an argument can be made that they were molded into a much better Soldier as a result--seem to be the most vulnerable to separation during this time.

What are your thoughts on "failure"?

What do you think the military's thoughts on "failure" is?

As leaders, how should we be approaching the concept of 'failure' with subordinates?

Do we have an obligation to do a better job of conveying the realities of the transition to a peacetime Army? (i.e. that any black mark/blemish, whether you learned from it or not, could be grounds to separate?)
Posted in these groups: 11bcd87 Failure
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COL Jean (John) F. B.
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I think it all depends on the type failure and the results of that failure.

The Army (and, I assume, all the other services) has been through peaks and valleys of the "zero-defect mentality". As the need for reduced number of personnel becomes a reality, what was once considered an "acceptable failure" could now become the primary reason for QMP, promotion pass-over, etc.

Everybody makes mistakes and it is unrealistic to expect otherwise. The key is to learn from the mistakes and not repeat them. I was fortunate in my career to have leaders who were very forgiving of the mistakes I made and, in turn, I was the same.

There also has to be a difference when someone makes an integrity mistake, in my opinion. That is a glass ball that cannot be picked back up when dropped.

In many instances, failure of subordinates can be traced back to improper coaching, mentoring, and training by leaders. I look at a failure of a subordinate as a failure on my part.

Unfortunately, it looks like we are returning to the zero-mentality mind-set where even simple mistakes can derail a career. To me, that is unhealthy.
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1SG Claims Assistant
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CPT (Join to see), I think there is a big difference between failure to acheive a desired result and failure to maintain integrity or Army standards.
Not meeting goals or objectives often teaches a valuable lesson, such as what works well, what does not work, and where improvements can be made. The Army has institutionalized that to a degree. Utilizing an AAR or Measure of Performance keeps us from wasting valuable time and resources on under-performing initiatives - at least in theory.

As professional Soldiers, it is incumbent upon us to learn from our shortcomings and make ourselves and by extension our units better. The problem with personal failures is that they undermine our credibility to influence our comrades and subordinates. If you are a leader who fails ht/wt, what message does it send? If you go out and get a DUI, how can you give the weekend safety brief? If you are unable to properly account for your Soldiers or gear, how can I give you more responsibility?

Mistakes happen. But I think there is a real difference between mistakes in results versus mistakes of character. We can do better than to have the felon, fraternizer, or boozer in our formations. So why put up with it? A shot at redemption?
I don't believe in zero-defect leadership, but the best method (IMO) is to reserve judgement for each case and apply your own experience to decide what is best in each instance. That is what we pay NCOs and company-grade officers to do. Throw all the "bums" out and you will have an empty formation; give everyone second and third chances and your unit will soon be an undisciplined mess. Make informed and wise judgments and your unit will respect and trust you.

You are right to see mixed messaging coming down from on high. But where the rubber meets the road, I know I can make a difference with every "failure" that crosses my desk.

Good question, sir.
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