Leadership Barometer 162 Fail More Often

September 13, 2022

In our society, it is considered a bad thing to fail.  From our earliest memory, we are all taught to succeed at what we try. It does not matter if it is taking a few steps on wobbly legs or negotiating an international merger. We are conditioned that success is the goal and failure is anathema. We are taught to feel great when we have a success and to feel awful when we fail.

We learn more from failure than from success 

Take away the stigma, and a failure is simply something that did not work out as planned. We obtain more information, momentum, resolve, inspiration, insight, and knowledge when we fail than when we succeed. 

To succeed is to get something done, but we have not learned very much. For example, without the corrective adjustments, we would never learn to walk or talk. It is the constant reshaping of past tries that causes our forward progress. 

Embrace failure

I think it is time to embrace failure and stop feeling bad about it. What we need in life is more at-bats rather than more home runs. Each time we go for something new, we risk failure, but not taking that risk is a bigger problem. We block our own advancement.

Thomas Edison

The most often-quoted example of this theory is the story of Thomas Edison. He found that carbonized bamboo filaments worked well for his light bulb. His most famous quotation is, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 things that won’t work.” 

He also championed being creative while simultaneously inventive. He was able to develop things that seemed like serendipity. They were really the culmination of a lot of hard work and numerous failures. He once said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

Let go of the stigma

The key to embracing failure is to let go of the stigma. Seek out the learning potential in every activity. They ought to teach a course on failing in grammar school.

Teach kids that to fail, as long as something was learned, is the route to eventual success. Instead, we hammer home the idea that to fail is to not live up to expectations. Children learn to fear rather than embrace failure. That attitude permeates our society, and it has a crippling effect on every organization. 

Don’t quit trying

Another aspect of failure is the idea that we never really fail until we quit trying.  As long as we are stretching to achieve a goal, we have the potential for success. Recall the quotation from Vince Lombardi, “We never lost a game, but sometimes we just ran out of quarters.” 

Use judgment

I believe there needs to be good judgment when deciding how long to persevere.  I do not think Winston Churchill was right when he said “Never, never, never, quit.”

At some point, it is time to learn a lesson and leave the battlefield. It is okay to have a discarded scheme or to recognize a blind alley and cut your losses. It is important to recognize when we have run out of quarters. It is wrong to quit trying prematurely.  I think the difference between those two mindsets is the difference between genius and mediocrity.

I am not advocating that we fail on purpose. Doing things right should always be the objective. The only thing to avoid is making the same mistake over and over again.

Some people focus on being busy just to have something to do. Thomas Edison had a quote for that too. He said, “Being busy does not always mean real work.”

How to make the shift in thinking 

Try having an “Experience Award” at work for daring to try something unusual.  Honor people who stretch and try but fail, as long as they learn from the experience. Doing this will seem unorthodox and “over the top” to many stuffy managers who will not tolerate things that are irregular. Too bad these managers are leaving real creativity off the table.


If we learn to embrace failure, we can enrich our lives in many ways. The notion that we should always succeed is highly limiting in the end. When we recast the role of failure as a huge enabler of growth we actually win.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations

Building Trust 52 Dealing With Failure

December 31, 2021

Most of us have dealt with a trust failure at some point in our life. It can be devastating because trust is so precious and difficult to build.

Earlier in this series of trust articles, I shared a piece with a couple of examples of extreme betrayal and the process to use to either end the relationship or repair it to be stronger than ever. https://thetrustambassador.com/2021/06/25/building-higher-trust-27-trust-betrayals/  

In this article, I want to address the less severe types of trust let-downs that we experience from time to time.  I will discuss some best practices and some things to avoid doing.  I will use the example of a friend who had agreed to proofread a draft of a book I had written and provide an endorsement.

The normal time for such an activity would be one or two weeks.  When I had not heard anything for five weeks, I became concerned.  Perhaps the person had become distracted or was sick or something. He may have put the project on his back burner and was busy doing other things. There also could have been an unexpected event.

What to Do:  First Order of Business

As soon as you suspect something isn’t working according to plan, the first thing to do is act; do not procrastinate hoping things will get better. You are holding a dead fish that stinks, and the stench will only get worse with time.

Open up a friendly dialog to check on the status of the project.  No need to be combative or disrespectful, just inquire how the work is progressing and if the person has an estimate for when he will be finished.

This low key and unassuming approach will at least get the flow of information going. The other person might not have understood the short term nature of the project and had put the job on hold for summertime to come around.  

Next Step: Renegotiate the Delivery

Work with the other person to identify a reasonable timeframe for delivery.  Once you have a commitment date, it is a good idea to have a short verification note in the email. This action will ensure a tight agreement between both of you.

The note also gives you prior permission to check up if the job slips beyond the new delivery date. 

What if the Pattern Persists

If you are dealing with a person who has a habit of missing presumed deadlines, then you want to put all future agreements in writing so you have a firm commitment documented.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. Website www.leadergrow.com   BLOG www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,  Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind

Golden Opportunities to Fail Better

September 18, 2016

When something does not go according to plan, we often get a sinking feeling of failure. Throughout our formative years, we were taught that success is the goal and failure is anathema.

In this brief article, I want to discuss how we can change around our mindset so that when things go wrong we gain the maximum benefit from the situation.

We learn much more from our failures than from our successes in life. Think about how you learned to walk. You tried to stand up, and gravity won over, time after time.

Each time you got back up, your skill level at balancing all that weight on those two tiny round feet improved. Over time you became so skilled that standing erect was easier than eating pumpkin pie.

I often think our education system is missing a key point by not having a primary school course in how to fail well. Instead, we teach our children that failure is to be avoided at all cost, so we carry that idea in our subconscious mind for the rest of our life.

The “Whatever you do, don’t fail” mentality needs to be replaced by “Make sure to embrace and learn from your failures.” Our failures not only allow us the opportunity to learn and grow, but they provide an opportunity to leap forward and make a paradigm change.

In every situation that doesn’t go our way, there is a moment of decision. We decide to just accept our bad luck and feel badly about it, or we decide to turn our problem into an advantage. This is true in our personal life, and it carries over to our business life as well.

A great recovery from something that didn’t go as planned is the hallmark of winners in any occupation. When we are able to take a bad situation and totally WOW the customer, the problem turns into a huge positive force for our business.

I read a story about Zappo’s Shoes in one of my favorite leadership books: Triple Crown Leadership by Bob and Gregg Vanourek. Apparently a woman arrived in Las Vegas and found that she had left the shoes she intended to wear that evening at home.

She called Zappo’s in a panic to reorder a new pair. The customer service person looked them up and explained that they were out of that style in her particular size.

This was the moment of decision for the service rep. He could have accepted the problem, or he could choose to do something to change it. The woman sighed, and the service rep said “What hotel are you staying at? I will take care of this.”

Then he left his work station and walked the malls until he found the shoes in her size. He had them gift wrapped, and hand delivered them to her room with no charge because they were out of stock.

Imagine the impact that recovery had on that woman and everyone who has heard the story since that time.

Taking a customer problem and finding some way to not only resolve it, but totally blow the customer away, really works. I call it the Golden Opportunity Moment.

Having a customer with a problem is a wonderful moment of truth because the customer is upset with you, and usually has low expectations based on typical customer service levels like “Tough luck you banana.”

Against the backdrop of low expectations, the customer is all primed to be totally amazed when you in effect leap over the counter and offer a significant accommodation that was above and beyond anything she expected.

There are numerous stories like the Zappo’s one where an organization was able to take a real live problem and turn it into a raving customer for life. Teach all people in your organization the philosophy of turning problems into Golden Opportunities.

Gregg Lederman wrote a good book on this idea with lots of examples, entitled ENGAGED!: Outbehave your Competition to Create Customers for Life.

Failure is a state of mind that can be overcome by replacing the sinking feeling with the joy of learning something new. Next time you start feeling down because something did not work as you had hoped, focus on what you have gained by the experience.

Whenever a failure makes another person disappointed, rather than add to the disappointment, take the initiative to turn it into a Golden Opportunity. When the other person is down is really the perfect time to create a lasting positive memory. You will have a wonderful feeling of satisfaction while creating a fan for life.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763