Don’t Miss Out on the Power of Failing Forward

Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Director for the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, famously said, “Failure is not an option!” And indeed, in that case, with the lives of three astronauts on the line, he was right. But for the rest of us, failure is not only an option; it is inevitable if we are pushing the boundaries of our performance and driving hard for results.

The Difference Between Average and Achieving

In life, the question is not if you will have problems, but how you will deal with your problems. If the possibility of failure were erased, what would you attempt to achieve? When you consider the people on your team, is the fear of failure or a fear of your response to failure holding them back?

Which Way are You Failing?

Obstacles and challenges are a part of high-performance leadership. They are going to happen, and you will have times when you won’t get it right. The question you need to consider is, are you failing forward or backward? When the people on your team have setbacks, which way do they lean?

When someone fails backward, they will blame others or portray themselves as the victim. When someone fails forward, they will take responsibility for what happened and look for ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again. When my kids were teenagers, a motto we lived by was, “make all new mistakes today.” People who fail forward learn from each mistake, so it doesn’t happen again.

I failed, but I Am Not a Failure

Another characteristic of someone who fails backward is the relationship they have with the failed effort. Instead of viewing the setback as an event, they consider it as defining who they are. Failure is an event; it does not define who you are. People who fail forward view failure as feedback. The failure does not define them; they just learned something that doesn’t work. It was reported that when Thomas Edison was asked how he persisted through so many failures of the light bulb that he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” People who fail forward persist.

What are You Communicating to Your Team?

How you view your failures, mistakes, and setbacks communicates a lot to those around you. If you want people (at work or home) to grow and develop and become the best they can be, they must have the freedom to fail. Then they must take the learning from those setbacks and put them to work as feedback on how to do it better next time. Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, once called an executive leader to his office after the failure of a new product that had cost the company millions. The executive was sure he was to be fired and had prepared himself for that certainty. When the executive arrived in Mr. Watson’s office, he commented, ” I guess you are going to fire me.” Watson’s response is priceless and a great reminder for us all. Mr. Watson responded, “Fire you!! I just spent millions educating you, now don’t let it happen again!”

All failure is feedback and education about what does not work. Encourage those you serve to stretch and try new things, and when they come up short, encourage them to fail forward, take the learning and try again. Don’t waste the investment you are making in their personal development.

Source: Perry Holley via John Maxwell’s blog

Gratitude is Important in Difficult Times

Many things this year have been different than we’ve expected. It’s been a year of constant stressors, changes, and adjustments we never thought we’d have to make. I think we can all agree—it’s been a really difficult year.

And it’s okay for gratitude to look a bit different this year too. Although expressing gratitude is something we know we should do, being thankful in difficult seasons is easier said than done. One place we can start is by calling out the disappointment. It’s okay to be upset that this holiday season doesn’t look like we thought it would. It’s okay to feel the weight of the changes we’ve been through this year. From validating and acknowledging what exists inside us, we can begin to expand our minds to see the good.

  • What are some positive unexpected things that have come out of this year?
  • In what ways did you grow, adapt, or change for the better?
  • What blessings have you experienced?

I am incredibly blessed and thankful for all of you. Thank you all for being with us during a difficult year. For your willingness to learn and your openness to new ideas and training. Thank you for sharing yourselves and your passionate stories. Thank you for challenging us to grow with you. We have learned so much from your strength and watching you lead others through this unexpected time.

Thank you all and Happy Thanksgiving!

Robyn Marcotte, Founder and CEO, Aha! Leadership

Why Advice Doesn’t Work

Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of The Advice Trap, writes why it’s important for leaders to silence their “Advice Monsters”, start listening and get curious. Michael states that the “Advice Trap” is the pattern of behavior where we give out answers more than we listen. He says advice doesn’t really work anymore for 3 reasons:

1. What you think is the problem isn’t the real problem. People talk about the problems that are on the forefront of their minds. It’s their ‘best guess’ at what the real problem is. Challenges arise when we try to give advice for the symptom, rather than the real problem.

2. Our advice isn’t as good as we think it is. And is usually based on our experience.  We have a cognitive bias. Advice is our best guess; however, we think we are better at giving advice then we actually are.

3. Giving advice is not the best form of leadership. Think through your intent for giving advice.  Is it more important for you to be right and have the best idea?  Or to provide someone else with the opportunity to come up with their own idea and take ownership of it?

Michael challenges leaders to resist giving the answer as long as possible until it is the right moment. There is a right moment to give advice – it is best to take pause and determine when that is…and why you are giving it.

Repurposed from

Trust Powers Productivity and Reveals Gaps

Trust fuels productivity. The key to having a productive organization is having a trusting organization.

  • Trust says:  “I think you are smart enough to know what to do and how to do it, and if you screw up, I think you’ll tell me and then fix it.”
  • Trust says:  “If there is a gap between what I expect and what I experience, I believe you’re smart enough to know how to fix it and tell me if you are not”.

That is the true culture of trust and when it’s established, it’s contagious.

It’s equally important to recognize what trust is not.

  • Trust is not a culture where team members are constantly trying to figure out what the leader would do.
  • Trust is not trying to please your boss. Trust requires teams to spend time doing what is best for the organization. In a culture of trust, employees are hired because they are trusted to get the job done. If mistakes are made, they are trusted to take ownership and fix them.

A culture of trust attracts trustworthy people. The secret to driving out untrustworthy people is to trust them. By assuming the best, the quicker people who aren’t the best will surface. This may seem counterintuitive, but by micromanaging and harboring an untrustworthy culture, the longer untrustworthy people can hide. Great people don’t want to work in this type of environment. Great, trustworthy people want to work in an environment where they are trusted to get the job done and take ownership of their mistakes.

In a quote from the book by Jim Collins, “How the Mighty Fall”, he writes “The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you might have made a hiring mistake.” If this problem is not addressed first and foremost, it may result in a culture of distrust in the team and the organization.

Repurposed from Leadercast

5 Ways to Lead through Ambiguity

More than ever, we are faced with VUCA times!  VUCA stands for…

Volatile – ever-changing

Uncertain – we can’t predict the future

Complex – there are many interconnected factors

Ambiguous – there are many interpretations

These are the conditions we find ourselves in these unprecedented times. Consider for a moment amid all that is COVID-19 that the last thing we want from anybody we look to for leadership right now is social distance. Physical distance—absolutely! Social distance—absolutely not!

What can we do as leaders, colleagues, employees, to help ourselves and others through this?

  1. Extend Trust – as we and our team members learn the new normal of working conditions, understand there will be a dip in performance at first.   The team will adjust and don’t assume they are not working if they don’t pick up the phone or respond to a ping immediately.  We did not expect this before when we were all in the office together, so extend it here even while captive at home. 
  2. Be vulnerable!  Let them know you have some anxiety too, but that you are there for them and believe in your team to get everyone through this.
  3. Set expectations daily/weekly, yet be flexible.  Team members may have uncertainty with priorities and what to focus on….and you have as well.  Discuss and help prioritize together – and be crystal clear on your expectations.  Let your team know you understand they may have distractions at home and that traditional ‘normal’ working hours may look different right now. 
  4. Stay connected!  Use a virtual tool and meet with your team and colleagues ‘face to face’ by conducting a video conference.  The impact of seeing your face is powerful to them feeling your support.
  5. Support each other…upward, downward and cross-functionally.  Connect with each other and share challenges and practices that are working for you and learn from others.  It’s easier than ever to be “silo’ed”.  Don’t let it happen.

As you have heard on the news, “we are in this together.”  Aha! Leadership is in this with you as well.  Reach out to us if there is any way we can support your team through this transition.

“Don’t GO through this adversity, GROW through this adversity!” – Darren Hardy

16 Tips for Effective Videoconferencing

As we acknowledge our ‘new normal’ for engaging in business, including working remotely, we want to help make your online meetings meaningful and productive with these tips for video conferencing.

1. Computer positioning. Position your computer back a little to create a shoulder/headshot view vs. face only, so everyone does not feel on top of each other.
2. Prop to eye level.  Prop your computer webcam up to eye level.  Try using a ream of paper under your laptop to position it up for web calls.
3. Turn on your video camera.  Humanize the meeting by turning on your camera so people can see you – and set the standard for others to do the same.  We are social creatures and this aids connection. 
4. Use a headset.  Use an external microphone or headset to eliminate background noise.
5. Hit mute.  When you’re not talking, hit mute.
6. Unclutter your background….position it for a less cluttered background.  Some services even allow you to blur your background.
7. Momentarily unshare if… you need to walk away, let the team know and unshare your screen for a moment.
8. Add a professional picture to your webinar profile, so if you are unable to share your screen, people can still see your smiling face.
9. Don’t sit with the window behind you. The glare is blinding for others.  A little effort on lighting goes a very long way.
10. Look at the camera.  When you’re talking, spend some time looking at the camera, not the screen. You’ll appear more earnest and honest this way.
11. When you’re talking, go slow. To ensure understanding while using this new medium for many.
12. Don’t walk if you’re using a phone. And if you’re using a laptop, put it on a desk/table and prop it to be eye level vs. on your lap. 
13. Organize yourself and materials before the meeting if you are hosting.  Have all your documents open that you will be sharing during the meeting so you can share your screen vs. scrolling through your computer folders while on the call.
14. Assign a partner to aid you as the meeting host. They can help with follow-up or aid people with technical issues or manage the webinar chat box so that it does not derail the rest of the participants.
15. Have an email/cell phone list of participants available if you need to email or provide information while on the call.
16. …and remember to SMILE!  It uplifts you and all during this social distancing time in our lives.

For many, working remotely is new and for others, it is not.  We all need to practice patience and empathy as we learn this ‘new normal’ together.

People want to connect and have a conversation. They don’t want to be talked to.  So remember to slow down, engage and talk with people. Connecting as human beings will add more value than making sure you get through all of your content.   

We, at Aha! Leadership, have been working remotely and conducting training in a webinar format for 10 years.  If we can help answer any questions or just want to pick our brain, please reach out to us.  We would be happy to be there for you!   

Robyn Marcotte
Founder and CEO, Aha!  Leadership

“The human has been working from home the last couple of days and every so often, they let me participate in the video calls.  All the other humans cheer when they see me.  I am the only thing holding their company together.”  — Dogs everywhere