If you talk to any successful person, you’ll likely find that they didn’t achieve their success by being perfect at what they do. Perhaps this is why Bill Gates is famously quoted for saying, “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Gates admits his own mistake of allowing Google to develop Android, a move that reportedly cost Microsoft $400 billion. Considering that Forbes lists Gates as one of the world’s wealthiest men, he succeeded despite any setbacks he encountered along his journey.
Gates isn’t alone in his praise of failure. Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple before taking back the helm of the tech giant, now the most valuable company in the world. And Steven Spielberg was rejected from the same film school twice, yet went on to direct and produce more than 100 feature films earning more than $25 billion at the box office.
One can argue that success can’t be achieved without failure, since that’s where the opportunity for growth can be found. Such was the case for Janet Giesen, vice president of operations and GTM programs at Metallic, a Commvault venture. She rose from being a sales marketing analyst for Penguin Random House to head of operations at Metallic, a 15-year journey that included stints at American Express and Shutterstock. While she focuses on building a roadmap to bring Metallic’s SaaS backup and recovery solutions to market, it’s the lessons from her past that help drive her current success.
“Early on in my career, I allowed myself to get strong-armed in one of my very first negotiations,” Giesen explains. “The power dynamics were challenging, and I felt I couldn’t push the negotiations.” Looking back at it now, she realizes she could have handled the negotiation differently by focusing on the value that she brought to the table and not allowing the power disparity to get in the way of the deal.
Failure Is A Frame of Mind
Through practice and training, Giesen honed her negotiation skills and now says that every negotiation is a lesson learned. But what if she let that earlier misstep prevent her from going back to the bargaining table?
Perhaps the answer can be found not in the failure itself, but the mindset associated with failure. The way you deal with a mistake can determine if it leads to failure or sets you up for future success. For Giesen, the ability to pivot and course-correct has been instrumental in helping her to sidestep setbacks. While working at Shutterstock, Giesen was advising on a decision about an M&A integration; a decision she quickly realized would have changed what made the company they were acquiring successful. She quickly reversed the decision and was able to keep the integration on track. Giesen says staying calm and addressing the mistake helped her move past it. “People remember how you handled a mistake, not the mistake that was made,” she explains.
Giesen doesn’t just learn from her past; she works hard to educate herself on ways to move past challenges. For negotiating, Giesen read, “Getting to Yes” and “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It.” She also took courses that included mock negotiations, which she admits were terrifying but ultimately prepared her well for partnership negotiations.
Growth Comes From Challenges
Giesen cautions that there are different types of mistakes: those you see right away and can correct, and those you look back on in hindsight as decisions that could have been better. It’s those instantly recognizable missteps that provide the biggest opportunity to gain knowledge and build resiliency.
“Everyone has deals they wish had gone differently. You have to learn from those and keep going. That’s how you pivot and grow,” she explains.
Giesen has learned to pause before making decisions and uses mistakes and failures as learning experiences rather than letting them discourage her. This ability serves her well in the channel, where many decisions must be made, and deal-making is a regular part of the business.
But thriving in the face of failure isn’t done in isolation. Giesen says involving people is key to success. She recommends seeking out a mentor who has a skill you want to hone. And as she rose through the ranks, she learned the importance of team building. “Build up your team to be successful. Hire for your blind spots. Hire people who are better than you at something,” she says.