Leading: 10 Stunning Benefits of Failure

Leading: 10 Stunning Benefits of Failure
by Dan Rockwell – February 2013

Success is a lousy teacher

Success teaches repetition. Do more of the same because more of the same produces more of the same.[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]

Kern Egan, Haymaker
Kern Egan

“So many good things have come out of my failures. Failures test you and build your character in ways that other experiences can’t. In addition, some of the best contacts I have in my network have come from meeting people in the pursuit of projects that ultimately did not work out.”[/dropshadowbox]

In changing times more of the same is deadly.

Success teaches confidence. Without confidence progress stalls, second-guessing prevails, the status quo persists. On the down side, success inflates confidence.

Bill Gates said, “Success is a lousy teacher.
It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.


Too much confidence spawns failure. The vulnerabilities of over-confidence include:

  1. Failure to explore root causes of success.
  2. Resistance to evaluation.
  3. Feelings of invincibility.
  4. Closed ears.


Failure humbles some and angers others. Humble leaders:

[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”curled” width=”550px” height=”” background_color=”#ECF8E0″ border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]

  1. Ask what caused failure. Exploring failure is the most useful result of failure.
  2. Know they don’t know. Not knowing is the first step to knowing.
  3. Adapt. Stubborn resistance to adapting reveals arrogance.
  4. Know limitations. Acknowledge weaknesses to themselves and others.
  5. Transparency marks humble leaders.
  6. Seek advice and welcome feedback from all quarters.
  7. Welcome help. High potentials don’t say, “I can do it on my own.”
  8. Give credit.
  9. Respect skill in others.
  10. Honor teams rather than steal credit.[/dropshadowbox]

Bonus: Display compassion even during the rigorous pursuit of excellence.

High Potentials:

Watch team members respond to failure, frustration, and falling short. Continue stretching the humble and coaching the angry. Elevate the humble.

Work with the arrogant. If they refuse to grow, eliminate them. Humility builds. Arrogance destroys.

It’s a tough call because confidence is essential to success. But over-confidence eventually fails. The ten responses to failure help identify high-potentials.

Discuss with your team

What benefits have failure produced in your life?

How do you identify high potential employees?


Learning how to lead: Helping

Learning how to lead: Helping
by Dan Rockwell – January 2013

How can I help?

New leaders find giving help easier than receiving help but receiving is necessary. Supporting others earns promotions. Receiving help expands impact and maximizes the talents of others.

Doug Conant, author and former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, has a leadership model that centers around the question, “How can I help?” Check out his book, Touch Points. (Highly recommended reading)

If you follow Doug’s example, and consistently ask, “How can I help?” others will begin asking you the same question. Don’t be shy. Tell them! Explaining how to help helps healthy teams support each other.

“Counter to conventional thinking, asking for help from others demonstrates strength and confidence,” adds David Peart, Senior Vice President at the Pittsburgh Penguins. “Engaging others for help also fosters a collaborative spirit within a corporate culture. That’s valuable and empowering for an organization and an individual leader.”

David Peart

Some examples of explaining how to help:

  1. “I need a few sips of coffee before being bombarded with questions in the morning.”
  2. “Bring solutions with problems.”
  3. “Tell me what hasn’t worked.”
  4. “Tell me what you want, first, and then explain the issue.”

Does your team know what support looks like to you?

Does your team know your preferred work style?

Are you frustrated by interactions that could easily change?

Getting help from others is a way of giving help to those who want you to succeed.

“How can I help?” is a powerful question. Ask it often. Furthermore, when someone asks you, “How can I help?” answer clearly.

  1. It’s helpful when…
  2. You can help me by…
  3. I could use your help with…
  4. I’m working on…
  5. I enjoy it when…

Saying, “Here’s how to help me,” enables team members to contribute more effectively. If you don’t receive help, you won’t go far.

Bonus: When someone helps, thank them.

Discussion with your sales team

What can others do to help you?

It’s helpful when _______.