Failing Forward: How Personal Accountability Can Lead to Success

June 9, 2015

May’s Round Table Discussion topic was “Failing Forward:  How Personal Accountability Can Lead to Success”. 

Check out the discussion notes below from our area Round Table Meetings.

Kalamazoo – Tuesday –  May 12, 2015


  • General Mills was ready to stop making Chex cereal when they came up with the idea of putting “Gluten Free” on the front of the box.  The same cereal now has become one of the top sellers.
  • “Everything came easy in High School and College. I had passion and loved my work.  My work had to go to the next level.  Even though I was driven and prior everything came easy, I learned I had to take it up a notch.  I was a small fish in a big pond now.  Things didn’t work like they always had for me.”
  • We lost a huge account.
  • Someone in our business had an injury.  This sent our DNR ratings above the curve and we lost a very important account.  This account was 80% of our business.  We had to look outside the box and were forced to make new customers.
  • Moving the business into downtown didn’t work like we expected.  We had to re-establish the whole business. Maybe that was the wrong move.  We needed to recognize it and change who our target was.
  • Loosing clients because of technology replacing people that did the job.  We had to see what we could do to fix the problem and make sure it didn’t happen again. It sure is great when we see clients come back.
  • Someone started a business with one thing in mind. Later, they realized the building was not a good fit for that business.  So they changed the business to fit the building and the business blossomed. So understand your environment.
  • Toyota started with products that were not top quality.  They became teachable and the quality went up.
  • Not having a strong Management team/Customer care.  We needed to develop the management in three categories, 1.  Customers 2.  People 3.  Projects to prevent failure.  Solution: 1. Re-alignment – putting people in the right seat on the bus. 2.  Development Leadership 3.  Mentoring and 4. Looking at Skill Sets.
  • Attrition – people recruiting our people.  Solution:  People development, re-profiling.

Take A Way

  • Chex cereal – coming up with an effective tag line
  • What is on your to do list?  If you are putting that one thing on the bottom, maybe that is a weakness.
  • I am accountable to do research and marketing.
  • Training someone else to do your job.  Making provisions to cover everything.  It helps you see the weak spots.  Succession planning.
  • A great reminder:  Watch your to do list.  Get the important done vs. the easy things done.  Priorities – Q2

Kalamazoo – Thursday, May 14, 2015

  •  We made a large purchase/investment looking only at the short range plan.  The lesson learned was look at the long range plan.  Hedged prices.
  • We lost a large account because we had not done the kind of work they were looking for.  Solution:  Getting to work to understand the needs of the customer.  Perfecting that field of expertise and then going back with the gained experience.
  • A lost opportunity can lead to a different opportunity.
  • When we lost an account we were forced to expand global accounts.
  • Will I just be embarrassed or will I learn a lesson?
  • Chex cereal went from being ready to pull the product off the shelves, to becoming the #1 leader in sales.  How? Because they looked at the market and realized this brand was made of rice and was gluten free.  They packaged this cereal as the same great taste – Gluten Free.  They didn’t change the recipe.
  • The market changed, we needed to be planning for the future.
  • Don’t throw in the towel when you make a mistake.  It could mean life or death.
  • Failure is giving up and quitting.  You can use this as a lesson learned and step up.
  • When Pro-golfers have a bad day, they focus on the positive and then go home and work on the problem areas.  They make it better by learning from it.


  • Be careful not to solely focus on one large account vs. looking at your potential – global accounts.
  • Realize that everyone has problems.  The problems can make you better or ruin you.  It depends a lot on how you handle them.
  • Teaching generational forward failure.
  • Failure means you quit.  Everyone has challenges, how do we come back and regroup?  Perhaps, come at it from a different angle.

Kalamazoo – Friday May 8, 2015

  •  Find the forward failure moment
  • Can help bond our relationships even more
  •  Definition of failure
  • As long as our intentions are right, it depends on what we’re measuring against
  • God doesn’t always view failure the same way we do

How do we keep personal accountability?

  • Take time to make ourselves better
  • Spiritual discipline w/ the Lord & keep myself accountable to our relationship
  • Have an accountability partner
  • Leading others – open culture & share freely with others when we make mistakes
  • Create a culture of knowing it’s okay to make a mistake
  • Open-door policy
  •  Build balance into your life


  • Culture
  • Confess our mistakes
  • Be real / honest / transparent
  • Know yourself & your core values
  • We reap what we sow
  • You have to go through adversity sometimes for long periods of time
  • “Work is easy until you involve people.”
  • Know your people’s inner strengths
  • May be like a fallen oak tree – huge with a hollow inside
  • We need to have a strong inner core
  • Confession – honesty with ourselves & honesty with others
  • Can’t beat ourselves up too much
  • Self-awareness helps us know what to pray about
  • David was a man after God’s own heart
  • Learn from your failures
  • We’re all going to make mistakes – we need to make sure we’re going to learn from it
  • The Holy Spirit is the strongest when we don’t know – have Faith & Trust
  • Faith is waiting for the right path
  • No temptation will be more than you can handle
  • Are we doing what God asks us to do?
  • How do we measure success w/ God? – Follow Him
  • In our personal life?
  • Ultimately your relationship with God
  • It takes courage to encourage
  • Evil takes a personal attack on leaders – need to always do the right thing
  • We all have blind spots in our leadership
  • When we’re experiencing failure we can feel along & when we’re at a weak point we can hold up our arms
  • We can’t let the enemy let us feel alone
  • Self worth & value don’t come from performance, it comes from the peace we have in serving God

Grand Rapids – Thursday, May 14, 2015

Key Challenges

  •  Energy expended does not equal success; sometimes it just speeds up the rate of achieving failures.
  • Sometimes we set unrealistic expectations, which is setting ourselves (and others) up for failure.
  • Sometimes the root causes of our failures are occurring in our strategic planning processes, and other times they’re rooted in the execution of our plans.
  •  Communication: Sometimes, because of our leadership position in the organization, people hear what we say as a “final decision”, and we don’t intend it that way.  We’re just considering options and working solutions out, out loud.
  • Sometimes people tell us what they think we want to hear.  When that’s not the truth they’re actually moving us closer to our next failure.
  •  We worry that if we fail our reputation will suffer.
  • We have a hard time forgiving ourselves, which slows down our ability to learn from our failures.
  • We have a passion to do everything with excellence, and darn few things actually get done excellently.
  • We can base our expectations on flawed premises, which in turn creates flaws in our test cases, and that leads to bad decisions, and failures.
  • Some failures are public in nature, some are private in nature.

Key Solutions

  • We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves.  Giving ourselves more room to fail more often can produce bigger and better growth.
  • Seek mentors to assist us with recognizing failures more comprehensively, and with implementing better solutions faster.
  • If we devote more time to assessing the dynamics and landscapes of our failures we will learn more from them.
  • Give others authority to make decisions in proportion the their levels of responsibility, and instill a culture that allows them to have room to fail.
  • Push decision-making down to the lowest level (to direct customer interaction/solution providing wherever possible)  AKA empowerment.
  • Apologize sincerely after failing; it’s the only way to begin rebuilding relational trust. (And it’s a Biblical mandate.)
  • Be sensitive to others’ shortcomings, and instill a process of consistent regular check-ups. Forgive completely, but don’t forget completely. Trust, but verify. (R. Reagan)

Key Takeaways

  • Remember that there is always more to the story than we can see or know.  Keeping that in perspective creates opportunities for us to model grace.  (Never assume the worst.)
  • People can swing from being our advocate to being our adversary very quickly.  Don’t over estimate the amount of relational equity that we have with others, under assume and over deliver.
  • It’s not really about how we failed, or why we failed, or when we failed, of even what we failed at.  It’s about what we learn from our failure, and what we do with that knowledge.
  • As leaders we need to keep our long term visions in focus, and reject “quick fixes” to our failures. (lest we just treat the symptoms and keep repeating the failures.)
  • In God we trust; he never fails us.
  • Since in our weaknesses we are made stronger, the intentional transferring FROM putting our faith in ourselves TO putting our faith in Jesus releases us from the fear of failure, and replaces fear with the healthy leadership attributes of humility plus confidence.