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Embracing Failure: A Recipe for Association Success

Updated: 3 days ago

Hey there, fellow association leaders and innovators! Sarah Sladek here, the host of the Membership IQ podcast. Today, I want to talk about a topic that many of us tend to shy away from: failure. It’s time to put on our aprons, grab our mixing bowls, and explore how embracing failure can actually be the secret ingredient to achieving incredible success within our associations. So, let’s dive in and whip up a delicious batch of insights, shall we?


Failure in the Kitchen

First, let me confess something—I am not a great cook. In fact, I’ve set taco shells and oatmeal on fire, among other culinary disasters. My kitchen adventures are more like a fireworks festival than an episode of Chef’s Table. But despite my lack of culinary expertise, I’ve learned that trying and failing in the kitchen has taught me some valuable lessons. It’s through these failures that I’ve discovered a few dishes I can actually master. Who knew?


The CEO’s Lesson

A few years ago, I met an association CEO who shared a powerful insight with me. When he took the helm of his organization, he noticed that everyone was playing it safe, avoiding risks, and stifling innovation. So, he decided to shake things up. He started having weekly team meetings where he asked one simple question: “What have you failed at this week?” His intention was to normalize failure, create a culture of experimentation, and encourage his team to step out of their comfort zones.


Redefining Failure

This CEO’s approach got me thinking: Do we ever truly fail? Is there such a thing as failure when you really think about it? I once organized a massive conference that ended up being a financial disaster due to the recession. For a long time, I carried the burden of that perceived failure. But then, someone helped me see the other side of the coin. I had brought in prestigious speakers, secured corporate sponsors, and created an event that sparked conversations and left a lasting impression. Suddenly, I realized that what I had deemed a failure held tremendous value and had opened doors for future opportunities.


Normalizing Failure in Associations

Far too often, associations get stuck in a rut, fearful of taking risks or innovating. We hear phrases like “we’ve always done it this way” or “we tried that and it didn’t work.” These statements hold us back from achieving our full potential. Instead, we should follow the example of that forward-thinking CEO and create a culture that embraces failure as a stepping stone to success.


The Benefits of Failure

When we normalize failure, we create an environment that encourages experimentation, creativity, and growth. Failure becomes a catalyst for learning, pushing us to reflect on what went wrong, what we can improve, and what we can learn from the experience. It allows us to pivot, iterate, and ultimately uncover new paths to success. By focusing on the lessons learned and the progress made, we can harness failure as a powerful tool for association advancement.


My Call to Action

So, my fellow association leaders, let’s grab our aprons, mix up a hot, steaming, fresh bowl of failure, and savor the lessons it brings. Embrace the authenticity and growth that come from taking risks and stepping outside of your comfort zones. Let’s create a culture that celebrates innovation, encourages experimentation, and welcomes failure as a valuable ingredient in our recipe for success. Bon appetit!


Remember, it’s through failure that we find our truest triumphs. Now go forth, be bold, and let failure be your guide to association greatness!


Stay tuned for more insights on the Membership IQ podcast, where we explore the diverse flavors of association leadership.


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