How To Use 3 Simple Questions to Go From Setback To Success

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If your team did not achieve a key goal, you probably know that this represents an opportunity to learn and grow.

But knowing how to seize this growth opportunity is the key to effective leadership.

Growing from an unsuccessful project is not a given. Many a leader has looked at a missed goal, shrugged their shoulders, and then moved on.

Turning a missed goal into a dynamic opportunity for growth and learning is a matter of intentionality. And it begins by asking 3 critical questions:

1. Did we have the wrong plan?

Learning from an unsuccessful project always begins by examining the plan. Such learning asks,

  • “Was our approach all wrong?”
  • “Was there a fundamental flaw in how we designed our plan?”

If you identify a failure in the plan itself, now you’re in a position to improve the plan the next time around.

2. Did we have the wrong execution?

Maybe the plan was right, but the plan simply wasn’t followed properly.

Perhaps somewhere along the way, you allowed the team to veer off course and they failed to execute on the core elements of the plan itself. This area of learning asks,

  • “Did we step off the plan at some point?”
  • “What caused the lack of execution; Was it insufficient understanding of the plan? Lack of resources? A breakdown in leadership?”

If the goal was not reached because of an execution problem, this often points to distracted leadership, which can be remedied with greater accountability and focus.

3. Did we have the wrong goal?

Perhaps you had the right plan and it was well executed. But may the problem was that the goal was simply unrealistic.

It can happen, especially on a new and untested initiative, that the goal you established is really based on pure guesswork. To explore this possibility, ask;

  • “Was the goal realistic?”

  • “Were we even measuring the best metrics?”

If it turns out you simply had the wrong goal, stick with your plan and your execution model; just re-evaluate and modify the goal itself.

Every leader wants to learn from an unsuccessful project. But such learning requires more than just good intentions. It requires a learning system.

And wrestling with these 3 questions can be the key to unlock a treasure trove of growth and learning.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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