Coaching Leadership

Fail in Novel Ways

To be successful, you have to take risks. If you take risks, then sometimes you are going to fail. When you fail, you need to learn from what went wrong.

As a leader, it’s important for you to put in the effort to learn some things before they are actually seen in your context. The risks you take should be smart, and they are smart if you’ve thought about, and mitigated, the familiar ways to fail.

You should always strive to make your failures novel.

If it’s easily predictable, something that’s failed similarly before or a direct repeat of a failing in the past, then you haven’t learnt what you needed. You are letting down those that rely on you.

This Saturday, Swatch launched their Moonswatch, a collaboration with Omega. Only to be sold in stores, available on launch date in limited numbers. Wildly anticipated, certain to be incredibly popular.

These types of product drops are becoming more familiar in retail environments, and there’s a standard playbook to manage them.

Unfortunately, this playbook didn’t make it out to every store. Some managed well and gave people a great experience. Some really didn’t, leading to scrums in the street, the police being called and stores closing a few minutes after opening.

There’s a school of thought that all publicity is good, but here the company could have avoided the bad with better planning and just basked in the good of a well managed launch, a popular item selling out fast and lines of people waiting for their chance.

What basic mistake are you going to avoid? What can you learn today to make sure your next failure is a novel one.

Coaching Leadership

Burnout is Bad Business

Every so often we need to put in some extra hours to get something done. The reasons that we decide to do this are many and varied, but it usually comes down to someone being over optimistic about how long something will take to do, versus the time available to do it.

If it’s something you’ve committed to, where you’ve been overoptimistic and where you see the value of getting things done, then it’s fair to accept the extra push. In this scenario, you are motivated to achieve the outcome, so it can feel exciting rather than draining.

However, sometimes it’s not what you’ve signed up for. The deadline is unfair and unrealistic, and you are being held to it by management or external stakeholders. In a perfect world this wouldn’t ever happen, but this world isn’t perfect. Short term incentives can support the push, but it’s not sustainable. Good leaders will reflect on what caused the crunch, and put practices in place to stop the situation happening again.

Bad leaders will see that we hit the date (that they likely just made up) and tighten the schedule more for the next time round. This is a classic recipe for work related burnout.

There’s lots of ways for people to get burned out in the workplace, for all sorts of reasons. The consistent crunch is one of the more obvious ones, and one of the ways that can take down entire teams if left unchecked.

That’s why it’s bad for business. You get short term benefits from the push, but it’s empty calories, any success or celebration is short lived without balancing rest.

If you keep crunching, the only things that are done are the urgent ones. In software teams that means your system becomes less stable and harder to change over time. Shortcuts get shorter and become more impactful. Valuable change starts to take longer to deliver.

Eventually, the team get burned out. They are constantly rushing, always in high-priority mode and chasing harder for smaller returns.

All this increases your costs, but it’s even starker when people start to quit. Someone leaving the team unexpectedly causes a hit to the team’s productivity. A team that’s in crisis will lose people more quickly, won’t have time to bring people up-to-speed and hits a spiral of declining effectiveness.

All of a sudden, your experienced team members are gone. You are hiring rather than team building and new people come and go as they can’t settle into the team.

Leaders that push too hard for too long cause this burnout, massively increase costs for the organisation and totally wipe out the short term gains with these costs.

Sometimes you do have to push, but rest and recuperate between these bursts to avoid the burnout that’s bad for business.

Coaching Leadership


As with all things, interviewing is a skill that you can improve upon with practice and focus. A major focus of the people running the interview is to determine if you will be able to do the job. It’s your goal to convince them that you can.

A powerful way to do this is to find examples of times that you used the skills or capabilities that the interviewers care about, and to communicate them in a tightly focused way.

You need to do this whether interviewers are using highly structured competency based questioning, or if they are just freewheeling around various areas of interest.

The model that you can use is called ‘STAR’:

  • Situation – What was the scenario you were in? People involved, deadlines, risks and opportunities etc.
  • Task – What were you tasked to do. This is the last time you can say “we”
  • Action – What did you do. Get specific here, this is the key point of the narrative
  • Result – What was the outcome of your actions, how did they achieve the task and why was your specific contribution important?

There’s often a follow-up question regarding what you learnt or what you’d do differently next time. This is also given significant weighting in the assessment, so make sure to have an answer here.

For any given role, there are probably fewer than 10 core competencies that interviewers will ask for. In a leadership role that might be things like:

  • How you bring people together to complete a project
  • How you inspire your group
  • How you deal with difficult situations
  • How you make tough decisions
  • How you coach or mentor more junior people
  • How you encourage innovation and improvement

For each of these likely competencies, think about a strong example of showing those skills, ideally at levels pushing at the edge or beyond your current role.

Write them down, practice saying them out loud. Get your situation and task outline down to less than a minute. Research the particular common competency areas that align to your role, and make sure your actions tie to the positive indicators of that role.

Build up a bank of these answers that you can bring to bear during an interview. Many of the questions you will be asked will looking at similar skills, so pick something from your list that’s close match, and go with it.

Prepare for these structured sections, practice your answers and you’ll be nailing any interviews you take part in.