Season 1     EPISODE 4
November 5, 2021

Failure can look like success | Shruthi Iyer

What happens when your performance at work becomes the only definition of your self-worth? Shruthi Iyer tells us how, in spite of achieving all the outward markers of success, she failed to take care of her own mental health and well-being.

2 min read

Shruthi Iyer is a development sector professional currently serving as the CEO at Foundation for Mother and Child Health (FMCH) India. FMCH works on issues of maternal health and malnutrition in urban low-income communities in Mumbai. Shruthi has formerly worked in full-time and consulting roles across sectors focusing on strategy, fundraising, technology roll-outs, and programme development.


“A month into my joining, two senior team members left, which is not unusual when there’s a change in leadership. Our organisation was also struggling with funding and partner delivery—something that all nonprofits have to go through, apparently. Initially, the founder was available to help me ease into the role, but with a full-time job of her own, it was always hard to get more time from her. Soon, I was the only ‘senior leader’ on the team, with a dysfunctional board and an inexperienced team.

On my part, I did not trust the team’s abilities, and did not have the bandwidth to help them build the necessary skills. To make sure that work never stopped, I kept adding more to my plate without delegating, blurring the lines between my weekends and weekdays. I thought I was protecting the team by taking on their tasks. But the result was that they often felt incompetent, unheard, and eventually disengaged (in retrospect, I can see why), often going to the founder to feel heard. I worried constantly about ‘What will go wrong next?’ which made it hard for me to listen to and connect with the team, or to make space for dissent.”

Read more

  1. Read Shruthi’s story on Failure Files.
  2. Read more failure stories on Failure Files.
  3. Check out some ideas and tools from Fail Forward to help your organisation take risks, learn, adapt, and fail intelligently.
  4. Understand why the social sector must recognise and talk about failure.
  5. Learn why talking about failure is crucial for growth.

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