“Using Failures to Drive Successes” – Notes from the June Round Table Discussions

June 30, 2014

We enjoyed dynamic discussions at our Round Table meetings this month. Our topic was “Using Failures to Drive Successes.” 

Whether reflecting on failure or dealing with present failure, each attendee was able to take valuable insight and encouragement back to their organizations. 

Below are the notes from our monthly meeting groups.

 Topic: “Using Failures to Drive Successes”

Kalamazoo, Tuesday June 10, 2014

  • We need to talk about what went right and what went wrong.
  • You can learn what went right and do nothing.  It isn’t until you apply what you have learned that makes a difference.
  • How do you define failure?  Is it all or nothing? There are U-turns.
  • A lot can be gained when we look at the failure and see what we can do better.  Where were we successful?  Don’t stay focused on the failure.
  • At a young age we are taught “Everyone is a winner.” It doesn’t teach us to learn from our mistakes.
  • Personable accountability
  • What does Success look like vs. Failure focused?
  • Refinement, taking personal responsibility
  •  Take risks. Experiment. Know the terms. Always evaluate.
  • Challenging culture to not be complacent and striving forward.
  • Empowerment, Fail forward, You will make mistakes, don’t dwell on them. Look at the failure as an opportunity to grow and learn.
  • Failures make you a better person. Criticism is hard. When we have the ability to take criticism, then we reflect that quality in our company.
  • Empowerment, integrity, Having employees find the solutions, and then talk with them through dialogue.
  • It isn’t popular to have right/wrong or failure/success; in our culture everyone wins.  What can we do different?
  • Own it, Plan, Do, Check, Adjust
  • Accountability with clear expectations.  How does each manager handle it?  Are they helping people experience success?
  • Accountability is a form of success.
  • In sports we have a score board to see our progress.  Knowing the rules and seeing the results are very important.
  • Communicate whole expectations not short messages that are not defined.
  • Failure happens. Let it happen once!  We need to set an example by “owning it.” Change, we say we are sorry and what we are sorry for, and don’t point fingers.
  • We have been able to get employees to come to leadership with potential problems.  Then teamwork/solutions come into play prior to the complete failure.
  • Funnel experiment:  Drop a marble though a funnel onto a target.  When the marble doesn’t hit the target they move it and make more mistakes.  Why? Because they have limited insight.  Look for:  Patterns of failures not isolated failures.  Have enough data for intervention. Stand back, be patient, wait until you have the information because some changes may make it worse.
  • Ask the right questions. Address root problems with the right person and with the right issue.
  • Be a better listener.  Do not respond with symptoms. Engage employees so they know you care. Help with root problems.
  • Remembering we don’t have all the answers.
  • Don’t get too busy and not get back to revisit issues.  After giving a challenge/solution get back with them.
  • Have clear expectations, put the hammer down when needed privately, and tell the truth.
  • You have to let people fail.
  • Suggested book:  “The Multiplier”
  • Remember we are dealing with adults and they are capable.  Don’t coddle them.
  • Entitlement society, Turn employees into Advocates for our Company and to hold each other accountable. Empower them with rewards, financial, notes, and be creative.
  • Listen, Remember, Care
  • Empowerment but not entitlement- that is crossing the line.
  • Make leadership teams vs. self-managers that could work against the company.  Get them to work for the good of the company.

Take Away:

  • People self-manage, leaders manage
  • Experiment, get data, make good decisions
  • Pattern:  Care enough, continue to learn, be consistent
  • Refinement, Failing forward, Accountability is a form of caring.
  • Continue learning, invite someone to mentor you- to see the blind spots
  • Make Goals, a clear destination/vision, accountability, and address failures

Kalamazoo, Thursday June 12, 2014

Failures you want to share:

  • Keeping the receipt in his wallet after the payoff of a previous partner, is a visual reminder of a failure not to be repeated.
  • Bankrupt businesses that people are successful in the future – never quit
  • Learn from your past experiences and mistakes, don’t do it over again.
  • Refinement.  Accountability. Own it.  If I didn’t train my employee well, make the adjustments.
  • Reinforce your managers
  • Are we making changes too quickly or wait too long?
  • Failure is a harsh word.  In sports or business we don’t fail and go home. We realize the hiccup, make corrections and keep going.  Never quit.
  • Do we make changes too early for the market?
  • Have quality systems, procedures and guidelines in place. Identify failures then identify solutions.  This has improved our game.
  • Be slow to hire, quick to fire.  To fire is the hardest thing I do in business. Getting the right person for the right job vs. keeping the employee too long.
  • Sometimes what looks like a failure now turns out to be a blessing later. It propelled me to go to the next level.
  • It can be a challenge as an employer when an employee’s personality can’t function at certain levels. Problem solve by defining the person’s ability.  Have someone else do what that person cannot do.  Be careful not to tax someone else beyond what they have time for.  Ask…Does this work well or should I rethink and change the way this is working?
  • Sometimes we need to force a crisis when you see a bad pattern with an employee. “ I had a meeting and gave them a day off asking them to go home and re-evaluate, to see if they thought they were in the wrong career.”  That employee came back having accepted Christ as her Savior and willing to get more training.  She is still at the company and doing well.
  • You don’t know what you don’t know.  Are they consciously incompetent? Ultimately bringing them to the next level of growth consciously competent.
  • How do you define failure vs. learning experience?
  • What do we owe that employee? Truth, U-Turn, this is where you are, step it up. Recognize they are on the bus but need to change the seat.

Take Away:

  • In a new venture or with a new employee be sure to continue to evaluate. Look for potential problems.  Is what I am asking fair? Do they have the right talent and skill set to take it to the next level?
  • Remember we have hiccups, bumps in the road.  That doesn’t mean it is a failure.  Don’t pack up and go home. Learn from this experience.
  • What am I personally conscious about?  Failure has looked like other peoples fault.  Why did they screw up and did I play a part?
  • Lack of training or incompetent employee?
  • Deal with failures so they are not repeated.
  •  Our comfort is not always good if we are too complacent.

Kalamazoo, Friday June 13, 2014 

  • Look at batting averages…there is a lot of failure.
  • My first boss was a jerk.  Because I did not want to emulate him, I overcame and learned from his failure.
  • I knew I could have…(failure) because I never tried.
  • Learn from the predecessors failures in the company
  • If a little is good, more is better. Chlorine was filling the air in a company because someone thought and acted on this statement. There was lack of backup.  We need backups and prevention.
  • Walt Disney went bankrupt 4 times before he created Mikey Mouse.  Failures develop humility.  When you have humility you are in the best place to learn.  Press forward and don’t give up.
  • Embrace failures as it builds character (James 1) don’t let failures define you.
  • Humility –The last shall be first, and the first last Matthew 20:16a
  • Reach, teach and grow from it.
  • I didn’t look for failure, failure happened.
  • Pride comes be the fall. Proverbs 16:18
  • Problem in our society:  Everyone gets an award.  They don’t teach -winners and losers.

How do we help the next generation through failures?

  • Be real, open, and honest and have humility.
  • Good listener
  • Set an example.  They are watching us. Be on time. Be polite. Respect them.
  • Be honorable people before the Lord. Have integrity and practice kindness.
  • Help them walk through failures.
  • Practice what we preach.
  • Build on little successes.
  • Assist them, don’t do it for them.
  • Fire for attitude, hire for aptitude.
  • Take our failure and admit it.
  • Mentor them
  • Flex success, except failure.
  • Authentic leadership.

How do we break the “Entitlement” society and help the next generation of leaders?

Love=TIME  Spending time is a purposeful thing.

  • Entitlement – a lot comes from the home.  Make sure our homes break that cycle. Teach them to work for what they get.
  • Work ethics
  • Evaluate. This means we have to plan and set a time to evaluate.  Having trusting conversations.  Talking about the pros and cons.
  • Educate
  • Mentor.  Lead by example, have structure, consequence and benefits/recognition
  • Taking people under our wing. Lead by example. One step at a time. Accept failures and learn from them.
  • Jumping into someone’s life is a risk of rejection and failure for us. Be willing to take the risk.
  •  Scripture talks about justice not about failure.

Take away:

  •  Don’t let failures get to me or let them define me.
  • Grow from your failures. Ask the Lord for wisdom, insight and humility.
  • An Attitude of humility is the road to success.
  • Rely on someone other than me – God
  • Don’t let failures define us.
  • Humility, being authentic and having integrity.
  • Be a risk taker.
  • Safe failures –get out of my comfort zone.
  • Be authentic with my failures

Grand Rapids, Tuesday, June 10, 2014 

The Challenge:

  • Lack of listening
  • Lack of remembering failures and the lessons
  • Too much success can make you risk adverse
  • Lack of faith
  • Lack of the right people in our lives who walk with us during times of failure
  • Not recognizing what you are missing
  • Forgetting what other people had invested in me over time
  • Improper implementation leads to failure
  • Not growing as a person as fast as the company grew or needed me to grow

The Solution:

  •  Listen more / talk less
  • Communicate more effectively
  • “Fail God’s way first”
  • Recognize that failures leads us to our successes of today
  • We are the sum of our life experiences
  • Don’t look at failures as setbacks……but lessons
  • Prayer…..and more prayer
  • Understand that God uses our failures to teach us

The Take Away:

  •  Stay close to your faith
  • Surround yourself with others who can walk with you throughout your journey (good and bad times)
  • View life with an eternal viewpoint, not a worldly viewpoint…..God’s plan
  • Receive input from others / look for consistent advice
  • Keep praying and keep showing up

 Grand Rapids, Thursday June 12, 2014

Defining Failure

Unmet expectations, goals and/or targets that results in frustration, loss of confidence, relationship damage, financial hardship and discouragement.

The Challenges

  • There are micro failures and macro failures, and while both are useful for driving successes sometimes the macro failures do so much damage that the whole process stops. (I.E. unrecoverable)
  • It is wise to measure individual and organizational tolerance for risk, which can be completely separate from projecting reward potential.  (Ends do not necessarily justify means)
  • Actively look for failures that we as leaders may not be aware of.
  • God teaches us much through our failures, yet we prefer successes without pain.  This is a conflict by nature.
  • Some mini-failures accrue slowly, perhaps from a lack of recognition or from just miscalculating; either way they can stay hidden until they’re really big, undeniable and catastrophic.
  • Reacting to failures by playing it safe is a commonly employed strategy, but it will not drive successes.

The Solutions

  • Accept setbacks as opportunities for growth in worthwhile journeys.
  • Seek the Lord, alone and in the fellowship of others.
  • Seek a broad perspective from a diverse set of views.
  • Allocate appropriate amounts of time and attention to successes and to failures.
  • Look for your failures in prayer, be open to change, seek feedback, listen and instill points of accountability.

The Takeaways

  • The more people we can involve in the process of seeking a Godly perspective, the more likely we are to see our failures as opportunities to drive successes.
  • Delegating leadership that empowers others to have authority and responsibility will spread the value of using failures to drive successes.
  • Using failures to drive successes requires a paradigm shift, from it’s about me to it’s about others.
  • If you haven’t failed you haven’t taken enough risks, and you are likely underperforming, under delivering, or both.
  • In Christ, all of our moral failures have been redeemed.  This is the most profound success of all time.

Detroit, Thursday, June 12, 2014 


  • Being a good listener and humble to receive feedback when you’re not performing well.
  • Being persistent in pushing forward despite temporary failure.
  •  Examples of other leaders who pushed through failure to achieve success: Henry Ford and other automakers; Steve Jobs; Edison and the lightbulb.
  • Knowing when to shift is critical to staying alive as an entrepreneur.
  • It takes prayer and discernment to determine when to stay and persist, and when to go in another direction/position/industry in the face of adversity.
  • Keeping perspective on the big picture and end goals while trying to balance daily needs and supporting your family as an entrepreneur.


  • Scripture shows us how suffering builds character and endurance (Job, James 1, etc.) When we think all is lost God is still there.
  • Prayer.
  • Challenges allow you to find your clarity of purpose. God refines you during the struggle.
  • Seek community (iron sharpens iron), and accountability from people who will speak the truth in love and ask tough questions.
  • Ask and it shall be given to you. (Matthew, Phillipeans, James).
  • Be positive and stay positive and you’ll attract more positive things. Focus on the negative and you’ll attract more negative things.
  • Let go of control.
  • Stop worrying about tomorrow. You don’t know what the future brings. Just do what you can do today.
  • Recognize and celebrate answered prayer.
  • Look at past successes and failures for evidence of how God showed up. It can give you confidence  to handle the present and move forward.
  • Success isnt always measured by large financial reward.
  • How many people you help is usually tied to your success.
  • God speaks to us through prayer, events, and other people. Our job is to watch/listen for Him.


  •  It was good to welcome a new brother in Christ to the meeting today.  He is a new disciple of Christ.
  • Clarity of Gods purpose.
  • This group strengthens me.
  • Be watchful and aware of the enemy. Be in the word and stay in communion with God and other Christians for strength.
  • Stay true to your mission and stay positive.
  • Big decisions require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit rather than our own wisdom. Take it to the Lord in prayer.