Business World

The Concept of Failure and the Importance of Listening

2 November 2021

We fall in life so that we can learn to rise again. However, people do not want to fall as it indicates failure. When they fail, they get disappointed and therefore, afraid of admitting failures. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. Yet, most people forget about (or overlook) the fact that the road to success is filled with trial and error, setbacks and failures and they tend to celebrate success and talk about their achievements only. Nevertheless, this does not change the fact that we learn and benefit most from our failures. That is why I believe that talking about these failures, sharing these experiences and not being afraid to fail is very important. The failures we learn from are the best teachers in life.

Within Siemens, we have an open platform where we talk as much about our failures as we do about our achievements. Recently, I was invited to join a podcast for Siemens, focusing on similar lines of thought as I do. When I was asked to talk about a failure that I had and the lessons I learned from it, I thought of the experiences I had in my early 30s and now regard as failures. I realized that the most important one of these was my failure to listen. In the early years of my career, I really failed at listening to others. At the time, I believed that I could grasp issues very quickly and come up with solutions right away. I was not good at listening to those colleagues who could not immediately come up with an answer when faced with a problem. However, the reason behind this attitude was not that I had the right answer, but my failure to listen. It was back then when I learned one of the most important lessons about this matter.

In a very important meeting, we were 5 women and 5 men when our manager threw in a problem. I remember that most of the men immediately came up with answers. It was almost like a competition. We thought among ourselves that we had to immediately come up with an answer, maybe to also impress our managers with our solutions. But most of the females were just listening to really understand what the problem was, and they were listening even to our inputs. And, they analyzed the problem much better than we did. Later, we were told by our managers that most of our inputs were actually spontaneous. Although they sounded good, they did not really get into the depth of the matter. But the questions that were asked, particularly by our female colleagues, really helped us to understand the problem. While they did not come up with an answer, they asked the right questions and dug deeper into the layers within the problem itself.

During that time, I was very disappointed in myself for not having immediately grabbed that point. In order to understand a problem, you have to listen to it and ask more questions. You have to hold yourself back for a moment in order to give a chance to other people who take the matter differently -to the female colleagues in this particular case- to come up with their questions in understanding the issue much better before arriving at an answer. Today, I wish I was told about this at a much earlier point in my life. Later, I discovered that and also made it one of my key focuses. I learned that it is not coming up with a quick answer, but really listening that generates real value. I must say that I have learned so much about this from my female colleagues and I am truly grateful to them.

Listening is one of the secrets to professional and personal success. For example, when making sales, you want to sell your product or solution to the customers, maybe even convince them that what you are offering is the best. But, what the customer really wants is that you first listen to their problems and the challenges they face and then finding out about what kind of contributions you can make to solve their problems and your values regarding your collaboration. And, there is more to this. Listening is also very important in coming up with new ideas. Searching for the new requires listening to a lot of different views. Because, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new” (Dalai Lama).

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