A transforming story about failure


J is the CEO of an organisation, a lawyer by profession and a former client. Last week, we met up for our six-monthly coffee. We’re pretty open about our lives and what’s going on for us, and she shares with me some of the challenges of being a CEO. If I hear something in what she’s sharing and can offer her a word or a thought about it, I offer.

Over coffee, J told me a story she’d heard which had had an impact on her leading.

It concerned a US study that found breakdowns in customer service can generate greater customer trust than that generated by smooth service. In the study, the service provider acknowledged the breakdown, apologised and took steps to make good the breakdown. When the breakdown was handled in such a way, participants reported greater satisfaction than that reported in a control group in which there was no breakdown.

J said she often thought of this story and had also shared it with her assistant, S. She said both she and S were fearful of making mistakes, not getting things right, not having everything perfect, and she recalled this story whenever she wanted to bolster herself, and that S did too.

As J told the story, she was excited and lit up. Partway through, she remembered I’d been the one who’d told the story in one of our previous meetings.

How do you know a story has transformative power? When you hear it coming back to you, grown fat with meaning and application.


Image: Red Sun, Arthur Dove (American, 1880-1946)


13 thoughts on “A transforming story about failure

  1. It’s a useful story and my own experience bears out the truth of it. Clearly, your client/friend had internalized the story and made it work in her own life. The painting “Red Sun” is gorgeous. I had not heard of this artist before, so thanks for the introduction.


  2. Before the days of written communication, the oral tradition was the only way for wisdom to be circulated. I guess it’s still any important way, huh?

    I’ve got a question–how do you get your blog posts to automatically post to LindedIn or Facebook?


    • Lorna, I like your blob too! :) Haha, I’m going to laugh about this all day.

      To share your blog posts on LinkedIn and Facebook (or Twitter … one day you’ll join ;) … go to Settings>Sharing and select where you want to publicise your posts.


    • One day I’d like to have a chat with you about the oral tradition you being a professor of sociology and all. It may have been covered up by material for the overweening eye, but it’s still there. And the hunger even more so.


  3. How gratifying to know that you are making a difference! I know that is why I taught. The oral tradition was prevalent in indigent peoples everywhere. I too love the painting. My granddaughter ismarried to a “Dove”! I don’t think he paints however! ha ha. But he’s nice anyway.


  4. I love when people hand back my words, you mention that in a comment in my last post. Only some times we get to know glimpses of the impact we have on others. But there is so much unknown. Once when a friend’s mother died in high school I send her a small verse. 20 years later she told me over Facebook what it had meant to her and how she has shared it so many times since. <3 Jodi


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