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Three Ways to Turn Failure into Feedback

Houston, we have a problem…


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Those weren’t his exact words, but it was definitely something along those lines. A little over two weeks ago one of my teammates, who shall remain nameless for the sake of his reputation and ongoing career, let me know that we had a “little” problem.

Many of you know that my team and I have been working hard on producing a new video training course called, “7 Days to Becoming a Great Manager.” It’s been an enormous amount of work; way more than any of us expected.

There have been countless hours put in by a number of us and we were very close to having everything we needed to start putting the finishing touches on things so we could start our marketing efforts. It was very exciting.

And then…failure. Without going into any of the excruciatingly painful details, suffice it to say that we have been forced to go back to much-closer-to-square-one than any of us would have ever wanted. It’s hard to describe the letdown we all experienced.

Have you ever experienced failure? For those of you whose hands are not in the air, you can stop reading now because the rest of this will only bore you. For the rest of us who make up the human race, there is hope in the lines that remain in this post.

Let’s take a look at three simple questions that can transform failure into the kind of feedback that will move you forward.

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Six Keys to Delivering Tough Performance Feedback

There are some things that you, as a leader, look forward to with great anticipation. Closing a big deal. Hiring a rock star for a critical role. Rolling out that new, breakthrough product.


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And then there’s delivering tough performance feedback. Ugh. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who actually enjoys that.

I have met many who openly and decidedly don’t enjoy it. As a matter of fact, I know leaders who will avoid it at all cost. Unfortunately, I have seen it end up costing some of them quite a bit, and needlessly so.

I certainly don’t enjoy delivering this kind of message either. Call it what you want: constructive criticism, corrective feedback, or feedback for improvement. It’s no fun to have this kind of a conversation.

But, I ran across a quote from a Forbes article that said it well, “Bad news delayed is bad news compounded.” Let me encourage you to lean into this. Learning to do it well will serve you and your team in ways that go far beyond the short-term pain you’ll have to endure.

Here are six keys to delivering tough performance feedback in a way that will create a positive outcome.

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With This One Thing You Could Dominate Any Industry

Have you ever felt like everyone in the company was working against you? Have you ever felt like everyone was doing their own thing and not what was really needed? If so, have you ever wondered why?


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It can be pretty aggravating being the leader. But what if…

What if leadership guru Patrick Lencioni’s assertion is true? He said, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”  (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni).

When reading a quote like the one above there are a number of reactions that can follow. Some of you thought, “What? Are you kidding? That’s impossible.” Others have concluded, “Yes! We could do that.”

Whatever your reaction was on that spectrum of pessimism to optimism the question remains. What would happen if you began moving your organization or team in that direction…even if it was only slowly moving toward that place of a uniform stroke? Think about the tangible and intangible benefits to your employees, customers, suppliers and community.

As I reflected on the last few months of working with my clients I realized that I find myself in the midst of strategic planning with quite a number of them. This hasn’t been an intentional push by me, but something has emerged that has been striking.

I have come to a firmer and firmer belief in Mr. Lencioni’s statement and am more and more convinced that creating organizational clarity is absolutely paramount. The reason? Because of the cost of organizational confusion. It is staggering to think about and painful to watch.

And, you are the one responsible for creating clarity. Here are four questions you should ask yourself, as the leader, to create the kind of organizational clarity that will lead your company forward in a more unified rhythm.

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Two Tests To Tag Tension For What It Is

I went to the gym yesterday morning and had a great workout. When my sons and I pulled into the parking lot at 6AM, the parking lot was pretty full. I didn’t think much about it until later.


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I grabbed a locker, threw my stuff in, and headed up to the room with all of the treadmills and elliptical machines. I spent thirty-five minutes on the treadmill, listening to a couple of podcasts while working up a decent sweat. Then I headed down to the weight room and did about twenty minutes working on a couple of different muscle groups.

What a great way to begin the day! But don’t worry. I’m not telling you this story to guilt you into starting to exercise. Although…it’s not a bad idea.

Remember when I said that the parking lot was pretty full when we arrived at 6AM? Did that surprise you? It shouldn’t have. Why? Because it’s the middle of January. Everybody and their brother is back to the gym working on their New Year’s resolutions.

As a matter of fact, my goal is to lose 7-10 pounds by the end of March. That’s one of the reasons why I am there.

But what will the parking lot look like in February, or even better, in July? If the numbers shown by the Statistic Brain hold true, in February the parking lot may only be a little more than half full. And by July it will be less than half full.

That’s the life of most people in the fitness business. Maybe that is your situation, or something similar. Is this a problem to be solved, or a tension that needs to be managed?

There are two simple litmus tests that will help us to distinguish whether this a problem or a tension.

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Three False Beliefs That Are Leading You Down the Wrong Path

There is such a cultural pressure to agree.”


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I made that statement in a previous blog post and it highlights a shortcoming that exists in many companies today, probably even yours.

For many, there is a natural inclination to want to get rid of tension. However, the right amount (and kind) of tension, is actually necessary for productivity in many cases. Take your thumb for instance. Yes…your thumb. When you pick something up, you press your thumb and at least one other finger against the item to pick it up.

With the right amount of tension you can pick it up. With the wrong amount of tension you either drop it, or crush it. The same principle applies in some mechanical operations as well. Tension serves the greater good. It works that way in conversations as well…at least it can.

A few weeks ago I wrote to you about the fact that sometimes you are dealing with a tension that needs to be managed and not a problem that needs to be solved. When that is the case, getting rid of the tension actually destroys the value that could be created if the tension was allowed to do its work.

There are three false beliefs that will lead you to the wrong conclusion and, therefore, down the wrong path.

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