We Love Failure

We love failure and we would love to contribute to a culture that treats failure as an important and necessary step in a learning and development process. That’s why each month we ask an interesting personality from our network to share his biggest professional failure with us.

Jürgen Bock
Division Manager Corporate Development and Corporate Culture of a major international retail e-commerce company.

I thought it over for a long time what my greatest professional failure has been. Initially, I remembered an event with 200 top managers with the IT platform didn't work as planned. Furthermore the contributions of the participants were not displayed as we believe we had entered them in the system. As the organizer producer and facilitator I had egg on my face and many of the participants were threatening to leave the event. Initially, I couldn't see what there was to be learned from this experience and neither could I see any transferable learning process.

However, after thinking it over some more I realized that in fact there had been a professional failure on a completely different level. At the beginning of my professional career I worked as a lawyer in the legal department of a large corporation. At that time I was 'adapted' and my intention was to fulfill the expectations of others, in particular those of my responsible board member towards me. In terms of his personality he was a perfectionist but on the other hand he was very quick to anger. Despite or perhaps precisely because of my behavior my career progressed very well up to the level of deputy head of the group law department. But this was only the outer game.

Internally on the other hand, I felt that things were going downhill: I was acting against my true nature and against my real needs. I let him scream at me without doing anything about it. I worked like crazy with absolutely no joy in what I was doing. I valued the recognition of others higher than loving myself. After nine years, I was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. In metaphorical terms, my heart was not aligned with what I was doing. I felt like a victim of my circumstances and in particular like a victim of my boss because I was doing everything in order to fulfill his expectations. Following a coincidental participation in a four -day workshop, I learned that I was responsible for everything I did in my life. Not only for what I thought, what I felt and what I did, but also for the circumstances surrounding my life and therefore also for my boss. Because in fact I had chosen my boss myself even if I had done this unconsciously.

You see I could've found out previously which board member was responsible for my division, what people were saying about him - and then I could have made my own choice. For instance, when he was screaming at me unfairly I could've told him that he had a right to criticize me but not in that tone. This new realization about my own responsibility for my life and my experience was the turning point in my entire professional career. When I had realized my true interests and talents I changed my job and became head of the personnel development department of the same large international group. What was even more important was the fact that step-by-step I transformed myself from being an adapted yes-man to become a self responsible free spirit. I recognized which values were the most important to me, namely freedom to develop and joy, and from that moment onwards I aligned my life with these.

Since this moment, 25 years ago, I began to change my attitude to life and to live in line with the principle of self responsibility. My working life took on a whole new quality. While my career today is certainly not a walk in the park, I most certainly live a fulfilled life - and I'm especially grateful for that, in particular to my finance board member at that time whose behavior unwittingly provided the impulse for me to change.

Steffen Kellner

After a decade in different management positions around the globe at Red Bull, he focusses on marketing strategy & innovation at IG.