Transcript: How To Lead When Your Team Is Failing

Chris LoCurtoLead people with dignity and you get incredibly productive team members. Lead them with fear and you get paralyzed office decorations. How to lead your team when there’s failure. That is coming up next.

Welcome to the Chris Locurto show where we discuss leadership and life and discover that business is what you do, not who you are.
Welcome to the show folks. Today we’re talking about failure. Have we ever talked about failure before on the show? I don’t know. This might be a new thing. For those of you that have been with us long enough, then you understand that I believe failure is a great tool. I believe you should embrace failure, not failing. I believe as zig used to say, that failure is an act, not a person. It’s a thing that happens. There are some, as I do my air quotes, there are some thought leaders out there that are constantly promoting that failure is not an option. I will tell you that is ridiculous. That is not a healthy way of thinking. Failure is not only an option, but failure is inevitable. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. Failure’s going to happen. It’s gonna happen. I don’t remember who said it, but I think the saying was, if you don’t want to be criticized, do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.

If you don’t ever want to fail at anything, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. Because that way, that’s the only way you’re going to make sure you don’t have any big failures and really even in that, it’s failure, right? It’s circular because if you don’t live life then you failed at living life. So no matter what, you are not getting away from failure, it’s going to happen. Just trust that and take a different tactic on how you see failure. Now for me around here, I expect my team to fail. I expect people to fail. If they’re not failing, that means they’re not doing enough. They’re not pushing hard enough. They’re not taking enough risk. And that means that they’re failing at doing their job correctly because there’s no way they’re giving it 100 percent. Right? So for me, I expect people to fail. We have a saying around here, it’s okay to fail as long as it’s not a fatal failure.

The deal is don’t fail at the same thing twice because if you do, now we’ve got to figure out why you didn’t solve this the first time. What happened? So as a leader or a business owner, it can be incredibly frustrating if you don’t know how to deal with it correctly. It’s possible that you’re going to instill fear in your responses or give no consequences whatsoever. So either way you’re not solving the problem and the failure will probably be repeated again, which by the way is the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So are you experiencing that in your leadership? Are you experiencing that? Your responses either instill fear or your responses come with zero consequences whatsoever. Are you responding the same way to failure and watching mistakes get made over and over again?

Today we’re talking about how to get a different result, and to understand failure, and lead when there is failure. Now, even as leaders and business owners, we bring our personal life and what we call our root system into our work and leadership. That’s why today’s episode is brought to you by next level life. Do you ever find yourself feeling frustrated, discontent, stuck in the same old stuff and never moving forward? And it’s not just affecting you, it affects your work, your team, your relationships as well. It’s just frustrating. What if you could wake up every morning with a clear purpose? What would it look like to have healthier relationships with less conflict? Where would you be in five years if you had clarity, purpose, and peace? Probably a big difference from where you stand today. I know it’s possible because I’ve been where you are asking myself, is this what the rest of my life is going to be like?
There is a better way and it starts with next level life. You can go to to take the next step.

Next level life is a two day personal discovery experience. It’s a one on one personalized event where we guide you through a process to help you get unstuck in life, to improve relationships, and discover what’s holding you back from freedom and peace. Don’t keep going through the motions everyday. Now let’s get back to talking about failure. In a great book, I know a bunch of you have probably taken strengthsfinder 2.0. Author Tom Rath talks about how most parents, when seeing their child’s report card of all a’s and one d would totally focus on the bad grade, and I believe, if I remember correctly, I believe the percentage is like 74 percent of parents would focus on the bad grade.

Why? Because we aren’t failures here in the United States. Here in a western culture, we can’t be failures. We can’t think that way even if it’s not the child’s strong suit. In other words, if their child was an incredibly talented artists but was struggling in English, instead of pushing toward their talent, they would focus more on the weakness. One of the stories Tom Rath points out in the book is the story of Rudy, for those of you that are old enough to remember the movie Rudy, it’s about a guy who worked his butt off, got into Notre Dame and got to be on the practice team for the Notre Dame football team and worked his butt off. I mean, got his butt kicked. A smaller guy just got pummeled for years, right? And finally right before he graduates, he gets to go in for two plays, I believe it is, and he gets one sack and gets carried off the field and everybody’s super excited about it at the end.

When you’re watching that movie, I mean you can’t help but you know, get a little tear in the eye. You’ve got the emotion of what this kid went through…and one of the things that Tom points out of the book is, what a colossal waste of four years. This was not a talent of his that he should have been focused on. Now, praise God somebody came up with the movie because then he got a speaking career afterwards, but that was not his talent. He could have been focusing on his talent, which was in something else. I don’t know what it was, but if he focused on that, then he could become a considerable success afterwards. Right? But we love the underdog. We love the story of the guy who spends four years to have two plays in a game. Right? That’s what we love. Now, if you take somebody else who was, I believe, going to notre dame at the same time, the best quarterback in history, Joe Montana, I know some of you disagree with that.

That’s okay. You can be wrong. You know he’s going there at the same time and look at his outcome, right? Total use of his talent. That was a great use of his talents. So that’s one example. A second example is me. There are things I’ve learned about myself in my early days. When I was young, I tried to do everything. I tried to be everything. If there was something that needed to be done, I was going to do it and I was going to try and do it the best it could possibly be. There’s something I have discovered along the way, I am not somebody who is great at administrative stuff. There’s a great number of things that it takes me about four or five, 10 times longer than somebody who’s talented in that area. I learned early on to surround myself with people who are talented, where I’m weak, surround myself with people who are strong where I am not.

That’s why you will find when you come here, I have administrative people doing things that I just can’t do that well. Why? Because I know that I’m never going to be great at doing that and something that takes me four hours takes Andrea 30 minutes so there’s no point in me losing four hours on something when I can get her to focus on her talents and our strengths, so as I look at it, I see failure as one of our greatest teachers. I learned early on by failing in areas that those weren’t my talents. I learned early on that I could actually get rid of the responsibility of doing something that I’m not talented in and put somebody else in that role who strives in it, right? Who thrives in it. So for me, fear is one of our greatest teachers. Without it, we have to trust that we know everything to be successful in every situation.

The truth is we just don’t. We flat don’t. When I see leaders and team members who carry the same broken belief system of no failure, I usually find it’s because they have been held to the same impossible standards by somebody in their past as well, that there has been somebody as a leader or an example for them that has had that same belief system. “Failure’s not an option,” but it’s just not true. Failure isn’t the problem. Failure’s a part of life. It’s the fear of failure that jacks a person up. For more on overcoming fear of failure, go to episode 220 and we’ll link it in the show notes. And again, if you have not discovered this about the iphone app, just take the picture and slide it up. Then all the information is down below that, so that is a great episode on overcoming fear of failure.

Now, here’s what I’m talking about. You confront the team member on a mistake and they shut down or get defensive, or if there’s fear of failure, your team is going to fear sticking their neck out and even won’t give 100 percent. This happens all the time. I’m always helping leaders to discover that when you treat your team members in a threat of anger, then what happens is is that they drop down to the amount of productivity necessary to get their day done so they’re not giving 100 percent. They’re not taking risks. They’re not sticking their neck out. Now, some of you might think, well, I don’t necessarily want them to take risks. Then you have not learned from me about leadership.

I want my team members taking risks. I want them pushing it. I want them doing everything they can to make your life better. I want them busting their butts to make your business better, to make your leadership better. I don’t want these guys working at 50 percent. I want them busting it and taking risks. When they take risks, I don’t have to, you know, I’m taking a risk on them taking risks, right? I don’t have to be the be the one who is in control of everything. I don’t have to be the one who comes up with everything. So by them taking risks, they get reward. They also get failure. The difference is, is how I deal with the failure compared to most people.

So if somebody is afraid of getting their head cut off and we see this all the time, especially in strat plans where we help leaders to see how other people respond. You know, if they’re afraid of getting their heads ripped off, then you can literally watch them shut down. It’s happened in many strat plans and it’s great for the leader to see it because they’re like, I had no clue that that’s what I was doing and it could be any leader on the team that’s doing that.

But when they see it is this great, fantastic, painful, Aha moment that helps them to see. I’m actually shutting down the productivity of my team or even my leaders? Well, that’s ridiculous. Oh yeah. So we help them on how to solve that. So weekly action items, things that you can start right now, things that you can do right now in your leadership. The first thing is lead people with dignity and you get incredibly productive team members lead them with fear and you get paralyzed office decorations. So here’s how to have the conversation with a team member who is fearing failure. So if you could get yourself as a leader past the place of not wanting your team members to fail at all. And again, we don’t want them to fail. It’s not that I want team members to fail and make mistakes. It’s that I know it’s going to happen.

How can I get them to learn from it so it’s not a fear. Does that make sense guys? I don’t want my team members fearing failure. I want them to go, “yep, screwed that up. How do I fix that?” You know, through the whole process that I tell you that, you know, the five steps, what happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? How do we fix it? How do we make sure it never happens again? So I don’t want them to be afraid of failure. I want them to have a healthy sense of, hey, make sure that you’re putting your all into this thing so you don’t screw it up because you weren’t putting your all into it. That’s a world of difference from being afraid to fail. So the first thing that I do, if I’m going to lead a team member, by having a conversation with them about fearing failure and trying to get them out of that fear, the first thing I’m going to do is ask them and I’m going to gain perspective.

So what is it that you’re fearing? What is it that you’re afraid of? What is the thing that you’re experiencing in this moment? What’s going through your head? What are the lies that you’re telling yourself right now? What are those things that you keep telling yourself? Now you have to understand if you have a incredibly protective person on your team then a lot of times the answer is going to be. “I’m not afraid of anything.” By the way, if you ever come in and do an event, whether it’s a next level life or strap plan or anything, as we go through the process, one of the tools that I use is watching your body language. Joel watches your body language. You know, my team has learned how to watch people’s body language because it gives us information. It helps us to see what somebody is experiencing in the moment so we can adjust.

If somebody’s really stressed out, we can soften up. If somebody is really fearful, we can change our approach. It helps us to see what somebody’s going through and an amazing thing is going through a strat plan and watching somebody literally have the words coming out of their mouth. I had one leader during one of the events that the words coming out of her mouth were, I’m not afraid of anything, and when you looked under the table, you could see her whole legs were going ballistic and she was wringing your hands. It’s in that moment. I’m like, Hey, I’m so help me to understand. Let’s take a look at what you’re doing with your hands right now. Do you, do you feel like the response is aligning with what you’re saying? And she was like, no, of course not. Okay. It’s okay to be honest. It’s okay.

I am not going to look at you and think less of you because you are afraid of something because you are struggling with something. If I do, then guess what? I’m a crappy leader. I’m not a good leader. If I’m sitting here judging you because you’re struggling with something because you’re afraid of failing in an area, well then that would be really ridiculous because in order to do so would be to say, well, I never struggled with that and guys, that’s just not true. You know? Especially my younger part of my life, I struggled with fear failure a lot. I didn’t want to screw things up. The great thing is is I learned how to change that and how to really take a look at failure as a teacher instead. So discover what the thing is that they’re fearing. What are they specifically feeling? Well, I’m afraid that you know that if I don’t get this right, then it affects everybody.

Okay, great fear that’s really legit. Let’s talk about that. Or you know, I’m afraid that if I screw this up, you’re going to be really pissed off at me. Oh, okay. Is that what I’ve done in the past? Have I done that with you before? Guys, you might. You might find out that you have. You might find out that people are afraid of you as a leader, but what great perspective, right? That means you failed. Now let’s fix this sucker, right? Next thing I want to do is I affirm them. So when you’re leading somebody in something that is personal, you can’t bonk him or her over the head. Instead, try to affirm them in that moment. This is something that I have absolutely loved learning from one of my virtual mentors for a long time, guy named Ravi Zacharias. He’s an apologetic and just a talented, intelligent, loving human being and I have followed him for a long time.

There’s so much of his stuff that I have just soaked up and one of the things I absolutely love that he does and he’s become an expert at this. People that are coming to him are usually coming to him in a lot of anger. You know, a lot of times he will do q and a’s on campuses and stuff and these kids are just pissed at God and so they attack him and he doesn’t attack back and he doesn’t defend and he doesn’t argue or yell or anything like that. He affirms. So one of the things that I have learned to do in my leadership is to say something like, Hey, that’s a legit fear. I completely understand that. I know exactly where you’re coming from. Hey, I’ve had that same fear. Hey, I’ve experienced that here. Hey this, you know, I’ve, I know what it’s like to be afraid of, you know, letting the team down.

I will go into affirming them and I will also utilize examples of my failures. There’s an amazing thing that happens when people hear Chris failures, right? I can’t tell you, it’s probably been two or three times in events where when I hit a failure, somebody verbally out loud has said, I’m talking about like live events where somebody is going, oh, praise God. And it’s like, what? And they’re like, well, it’s just good to know that you fail. I’m like, are you kidding? That’s what this whole business is based on is I’ve learned from my failures and I’ve had people say, I just, you know, you do things so well. Well I do things well because I’ve learned from my failures and I put things in place. Of course I fail every single day. I make mistakes every single day. What a lot of leaders do is they actually try and hide their failures.

And again, if you’ve been with me long enough, you’ve heard me say this, “guys, there’s no point in hiding your failure failures from your team. They already know that you fail.” Chances are they already know the failures that you’re trying to hide from them. It’s pointless. It’s a waste of time. It is actually detrimental to hide your failures from your team because they’re not going to be loyal to you. They believe that you can’t be honest and you can’t actually be aware of yourself. So instead I’ll share my failures. I’ll talk about them. Hey, I’ve experienced this, I’ve done this. And it helps them to go, oh, well if you have, then I guess it’s okay that I’m fearing this right now. So the next thing I do is I affirmed them. Third thing I’ll do is I’ll say something like, I totally get where you’re coming from. Fear of failure is huge. So while I’m affirming them in, Hey, I’ve experienced that, I also want to point out that I know where they’re coming from, where this fear is coming from, where this is, you know that piece in their root system that is bringing this up. I want them to know I get that. I get that you are feeling that way. The next thing I do is I dig in. Don’t assume you know what they’re talking about.

High D’s, High I’s do not assume and high C’s as well. All personality styles listened to me. We all assume that we know what somebody is talking about and we immediately go to that place in our head, do not assume you know what they’re talking about. Be vulnerable and give examples of what you’ve experienced that helps them to go ahead and be a little vulnerable themselves. They can take down some walls or at least take a couple of bricks out of the walls, right? And go ahead and be able to talk to you about this thing. What is the failure you’re afraid of? Let’s get that question asked. Let’s get some of that information out. If they throw something out there that isn’t deep enough, this is where we dig in, start asking more questions. The question that I will ask over and over again, I tell people is they come to the next level life and strap plan.

You’re going to get to a place where you hate the word, why. They will throw something out that is surface level and I’ll go why? And like, uh, uh…and I already know what the answer is. This is what I do for a living. My goal is to get them to say the answer and if they’ve not gone deep enough, if they’ve not dug in, then I will continue to ask questions. Wait a second. Chris, you haven’t solved the problem yet? No, no. My goal isn’t to solve the problem. My goal is to solve the bigger issue, the bigger underlying issue. So if I just jump in and tell them, don’t be afraid, go ahead and do this thing and solve it for them on the spot, then I haven’t solved it the next time.

My goal is to help them to see why they’re afraid of this failure.Where’s that coming from? Try and dig into their root system and discover where is this specific fear coming from? So I’ll ask why over and over and over again until they get to a deeper version. If sometimes, you know, it happens. Sometimes folks, uh, they don’t like that question. And so they’ll throw it back on, well, I don’t know, Chris, that you know, you’re my leader. You’re supposed to be able to tell me to which I will always respond. So it’s my fault that you can’t come up with the answer? So it was very quickly people will go, oh, okay, true, right, okay. And dig back in again. So the goal is to get them to a much deeper understanding of what the fear is. Next thing I will do help them to understand that what they’re fearing is not a healthy sense of fear. Now what do I mean by that?

99 times out of 100, gosh, almost 100 percent. The fear has to do with people’s opinions. The fear has to do with, well, what is somebody going to think? What is the team going to think? What is my leader going to think? What is the client going to think? Almost every single time the fear that they’re experiencing is not healthy. It’s a fear of unhealthy opinions or unhealthy judgment. It’s usually not a healthy sense of fear. What does a healthy sense of fear? When a lion is chasing you? If you are afraid of that, that’s a healthy sense of fear. Get moving or do something I don’t know. You know, don’t just stand there… that’s a healthy sense of fear because something is about to eat you, so that would be healthy. What is not a healthy sense of fear?

Gosh, if I do, if I mess this up, I bet the whole team is going to think I’m a total loser. That is not a healthy sense of fear, and if people are judging you, then most likely they’re judging you from an unhealthy place themselves. So help them to understand the difference between a healthy sense of fear in an unhealthy sense of fear. If somebody is worried about doing something or fearing failure because they’re worried about how people are going to judge them, shut it down, help them to see what healthy looks like. The next thing I’m going to do is I’m going to ask. This is where I jump into the problem solving that I teach you about all the time guys. I’m going to ask if I’m their direct leader or even if I’m not. If this is a discussion I’m having with somebody who’s afraid of failure, I prefer the direct leaders doing this, but if I need to solve a problem right there, I’m going to go through how to solve things.

The first thing I’m going to ask is what’s going to happen if you fail? So the thing I’m looking for is you know, to tackle that big fear, especially if it has to do with leadership. So let’s say you fail. What am I going to do about it? Every single time I ask that here with my team, it’s so funny. If I have a team member who is struggling with fear of failure, I will always go, so what am I going to do if you fail and they just kind of blink a couple of times and they go, well, you’re, you’re going to ask me what happened and then what am I going to do? You’re going to ask me why it happened and then what am I going to do? Well, you’re going to ask me how it happened, how I can fix it, and how I can make sure it never happens again, and then what am I going to do?

And they go, nothing. To which I will throw a few jokes out there. I’ll go, so I’m not going to rip your head off? No, I’m not going to take your birthday away? No. So what am I going to do? Nothing. We’re going to get back to work. That is one of the most empowering things for a team member when I help them to see that if they fail, we’re going to walk through the same problem solving process that we do all the time. It helps them to feel empowered instead of fearful. It helps them to feel like, okay, I got this, I can go do this, so for me that’s the next place I’m going to go is to help them to understand what’s gonna happen. If this does go south, what if this fails? Then what? The next thing I’m going to do is help them to see that the fear they’re living in is all based on something that hasn’t happened yet.

Otherwise, if it had happened and we would be having a completely different discussion, but they’re creating these opportunities to be fearful of stuff that literally has not happened yet. It’s a colossal waste of time. So I’ll ask them, how has it happened? No. Okay, so how is this helping you? That’s a question I ask all the time. How is this helping you? Well, it’s not. Well then why you doing it? Okay, I get your point. Yeah, it hasn’t happened. There is zero point in fearing something that hasn’t happened yet. When you take a look at Jesus’s life, one of the things that I see is he did not actually live out the fear of his death until the night before, I don’t see it anywhere else. There’s no point. He knows what’s coming. He knows what’s going to happen. He knows his purpose in life and yet I don’t see him walking out this fear every single day.

It doesn’t hit them until the night before. Then when he knows that this is happening, tomorrow, this is, there’s no going back or at least you know even in discussions, is there going back? No, there’s no going back. He doesn’t live that out into that moment, so being fearful of something that still has not happened yet is a colossal waste of time, so don’t, don’t spend that time on fearing something until it does happen and if it does happen to okay, walk through the solution problems. Also help them to see what the situations are, where they’re fearing failure. Is that at work? When they’re working with somebody specific, what is the thing? What is the specific thing? Help them to see that piece. Next, guide them to see what am I feeling? What are the thoughts that are going through my head right now? If they can recognize, and what I tell people is, you know, if you can actually put a stamp on this, this is what I was feeling when I had this response or I had this action.

Go ahead and mark that. Remember that. What am I specifically thinking? What are the specific thoughts that are going through my head? What you will discover is most likely they’re lies. They’re lies that have to do with worth from man. There are lies that have to do with people’s approval, people’s opinions, people’s thoughts, people’s judgments. Help them to see that. Help them to pull specifically the thoughts out the specifically the things that they’re saying to themselves and help them to see where they can get solid, consistent worth and use it to battle that fear. Now, for me, we battle the lines with the truths and the truth is almost never the opposite of the lie. You know, I’m worried about failing on this project. Why? Because I’m going to let people down. What’s the actual truth to that? The truth is I’m worried about being judged by people.

So what should the truth be that you battle with? I should not get my worth for man. My worth should come from God. That’s the truth. So Hey, what are you fearing right now? Failing. Okay? What’s the truth? So the lie is, is that you’re going to let people down. What’s the truth? My worth should come from God. Okay? So if your worth should come from God, you should do your work as unto him, not them, right? Yes. Okay. Do me a favor. Go do that. What I tell him people here is if you do your work as unto the Lord, I don’t ever have to worry about you’re doing your work as unto me. When you have to do your work as unto me. Now I have to think about managing you and I don’t love doing that. Let me lead you to the one who cares way greater about you than I do and do your work as unto him.

If you do that, then you will bust your butt 24/7, right? Making him happy, not me happy, so those are things that you can do this week, people, those are things that you can do this week. Now it’s not just for leadership, right? Parents, focus on this. Do this with your kids. You’re watching your kids fear failure, and guess what? So much of that comes from you teaching them, so help them to see. Be vulnerable with your kids. Be vulnerable with your family members. Take the mask off, take the bricks out of the wall, help them to see that you experienced the same stuff. Walk through these different pieces with them and help them to understand how to get over that fear of failure. Now, a big piece of making this process successful is having high levels of quality communication, so if you don’t know the personality profile of the team member you’re communicating with, get it.

If you’ve not done personality styles for your team, what in the world are you waiting for? You’re missing out. Guys, as I’ve shared many times before. The number one issue when it comes to business is not having high quality communication. It’s not finding money. It’s not getting more money. It’s not having one bad apple. It is not having high levels of quality communication. The best way to get that communication is to understand the personality styles of the folks you’re leading and communicating with. Go to and get personality profiles for your team. Get the video that I teach. Sit down, have the team members do the profile, then sit down and watch the video together. It’s 45 minutes. It’s very funny. It’s a very great video. Sit down and discuss it with your team. Get it for your team members today.

Now folks, you have to set your team up for success. Whether they are fearing failure or making mistakes, whatever it is, it is your job as a leader to make your team successful, not the other way around. Now, next week we’re dropping an episode on your greatest enemy, the enemy that keeps you from the success you could have in business and in life, so don’t miss that next Tuesday. Hopefully this was helpful for you today. As always, take this information, change your leadership, Change Your Business, change your life, and join us on the next episode.



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

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