Deal with Failure with Compassion

Getting Real Results


Every leader wants results. Without positive results from our workers, the business suffers, and so does our bank accounts. But at a deeper level, results also reflect on the leader and his or her ability to guide workers toward success. In this video, Bill Pollard, retired CEO of ServiceMaster, addresses the temptation to press too hard for results. 



Bill points out that a leader has as much a part in the results of workers as the workers themselves do. It’s important as leaders that we recognize the part we play in the business. Bill identified three possible hindrances to positive results:

  • The leader may have assigned the worker to a “widow maker” job, or to one he or she may not have the skills for.
  • The worker may decide he or she doesn’t want to do the job.
  • The worker may suffer from difficult life circumstances outside of work.

The key to effective leadership lies in determining the party most responsible for the lack of results in each situation. In the first example, the leader bears responsibility for the lack of results. In the second, the worker must accept the blame. And in the third, no one is at fault. 


As you approach problems with negative results, where do you typically assign responsibility for the fault?
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Which of the above three causes of poor performance have you seen in your workplace? How were the problems resolved?
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Bill concludes by saying it’s okay to make mistakes. But when we press for results in an inappropriate way, we have to own up to it. He says there’s no excuse not to take that next step and ask for forgiveness.  

What kind of effect would owning a mistake and asking forgiveness have on workers? How would their view of your leadership change, if at all?
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How we handle performance issues can be the difference between effective servant leadership and dictatorship. When faced with suffering results, Bill argues that it’s important to take a step back and say, “Why?” Seek results in a way that fosters care and compassion. 


For more insights and teaching from Bill Pollard, check out the full course The How-Tos of Servant Leadership


This post was made in cooperation with the Soderquist Leadership. For more great content, visit their website here.