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Daily Leadership Thought #98 – What Would Make You Fail?

February 28, 2011

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It’s impossible not to fail sometimes in business so you should anticipate it.

Last Fall, Michael Canic presented to one of my Vistage CEO peer groups about the topic of Ruthless Consistency.  There were many things he said that resonated with me, but one idea got my full attention.  He stated that any time an organization is about to take on a strategic objective or something else significant, the leadership team should always ask the people responsible for executing the idea, “what would make us fail?” and then take appropriate steps to mitigate failure from happening.

It sounds simple, right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my clients and myself forget to ask this fundamental question.  We get so excited about the potential of a goal or an idea that we lose ourselves in figuring out what needs to take place to make it happen rather than what could potentially pose a major roadblock in our quest for successful completion.  Every major objective has an Achilles heel or major point of vulnerability.  Moreover, there are often multiple factors outside our own scope of control.  We must be careful of becoming too blinded by our own optimism.

I recommend that before taking on anything important in business (or life), you step back and consult with the affected parties.  Solicit their feedback not just on whether it’s a promising idea or what steps are necessary for execution, but also what could make it fail.  Encourage honest and exhaustive feedback.   Once you know your major obstacles and have a plan to overcome them, you will have a much higher probability of success.