I’m an optimist.

I talk, write and tweet a lot about the great things happening at our company. Letting gratitude, optimism and belief guide my way really and truly is my approach to life.

But, as a leader, at times I also need to have crucial conversations about things that aren’t so great. I don’t only share good news. I also talk about troubling issues. All leaders – and their organizations – simply cannot gloss over failures. Instead, shine a light on them. Learn from them. Use them to become better.

Sunshine is a great disinfectant!

For all of us, failing gives us an opportunity to learn – not complain, not call out missteps, and not point fingers. It can be uncomfortable, but if we do it right, we can get better by taking the Band-Aid off to show things that don’t work and aren’t good.

This, to me, is the fundamental difference between failing and failure.

Failure is what we want to avoid – when what we do, or how we do it, ends poorly, because of bad processes, lack of courage or an untrusting culture.

Failing is not the same. We can fail but still be successful.

To avoid failure, we must learn what customers truly want – by talking to and empathizing with them. We must test our assumptions through experimentation. Then build in flexibility for pivoting or changing direction when things aren’t going well based on customer input or evidence.

Along this journey, we also must assume positive intent. Those closest to the customer are usually best equipped to solve problems. Inclusive and diverse-thinking teams are crucial to getting there, especially those that move with speed and urgency. And our actions – as individuals and teams – affect others we work with.

To avoid failure, we learn from failing.

What can you do? Be transparent with the work you’re doing. Assume positive intent from others. If you’re a leader, listen and analyze feedback you receive! Your first reaction could be, “Tell me more about what’s not working,” instead of taking it personally. Everyone can ensure feedback gets to the right folks. Be heard, but also be open to dialogue from others.

Next time, be seen as a better leader or stronger employee by admitting failure when it happens, and then working together finding ways to improve things. Make it right the next time.

Failing doesn’t have to mean failure. If we work together to quickly pivot and solve what’s wrong – together – we can accomplish so much more.