Nonprofit Radio for March 21, 2022: Improve Your Relationship With Failure

Ashley Good: Improve Your Relationship With Failure

We all know we ought to learn from failure. But most of us don’t have that healthy relationship with failure. Ashley Good reveals the breakdowns to help us improve the relationship. Her consultancy is Fail Forward.

 

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[00:00:15.84] spk_0:
mm hmm. Hello and welcome to tony-martignetti non profit radio big nonprofit ideas for the

[00:00:18.54] spk_1:
the other

[00:00:45.04] spk_0:
95%. I’m your aptly named host of your favorite abdominal podcast and oh, I’m glad you’re with me. I’d suffer the effects of a tick a phobia. If you shared with me the fear that you’d miss this week’s show improve your relationship with failure. We all know we ought to learn from failure, but most of us don’t have that healthy relationship with failure. Ashley Good reveals the breakdowns

[00:00:47.43] spk_1:
to

[00:01:13.24] spk_0:
help us improve the relationship. Her consultancy is fail forward And Tony’s take two easy, comfortable donor relationships, responses by turn to communications. Pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c o. It’s a pleasure to welcome Ashley Good. She is founder of fail

[00:01:16.33] spk_1:
forward,

[00:01:20.64] spk_0:
the world’s first failure consultancy supporting people and organizations to acknowledge,

[00:01:24.14] spk_1:
create

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and evolve from

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failure.

[00:01:28.24] spk_0:
A winner of the Harvard business review Mckinsey Innovating innovation

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challenge,

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fail forward helps businesses, governments and nonprofits harness their failures

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to

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learn innovate and build resilience. The company is at fail forward dot org and at fail forward. Ashley Good. Welcome to nonprofit radio

[00:01:53.74] spk_1:
Thanks so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

[00:01:57.74] spk_0:
My pleasure to have you. Thank you joining us from toronto I

[00:02:00.83] spk_1:
AM Yes. And you may be able to hear a little baby crying in the background. That’s my 10 month old who just woke up from his nap.

[00:02:18.44] spk_0:
There he is. Absolutely we are. We are. We’re not only family family friendly. The and anybody could be family friendly. We’re family embracing If you’re if you’re a 10 month old has to come in with

[00:02:20.50] spk_1:
you. I

[00:02:21.78] spk_0:
understand. We’ll,

[00:02:23.31] spk_1:
we’ll

[00:02:23.86] spk_0:
we’ll still be able to hear you over. No, no problem at

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all.

[00:02:27.54] spk_0:
Uh, so welcome. Welcome from one of our northern neighbors. Glad to have you.

[00:02:33.34] spk_1:
Thanks for that.

[00:02:34.74] spk_0:
You’re

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company

[00:02:39.24] spk_0:
bio starts with in many ways, our relationship with failure either unlocks our full potential

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or

[00:02:46.31] spk_0:
keeps us from ever realizing it.

[00:02:48.84] spk_1:
Please.

[00:02:50.27] spk_0:
I think that’s a great place for us to begin. Please explain that.

[00:03:50.84] spk_1:
Yeah, So I guess where that line came from is how our relationship with failure often is one that is rooted in fear. Um, at least that’s what I hear the most from my clients is they’re calling me because they feel like their fear of getting it wrong is the reason that they’re not taking the risks. They might otherwise desire to um, the fear of what might happen. Their fear of letting other people down. The fear of being seen as a failure by the folks around them, hold us back from maybe from doing a lot of the things that um, that might help us learn and grow and on the flip side of that, you know, our healthy relationship with failure is one where we feel we feel safe stepping out of our comfort zone, recognizing that that, that, that often deep discomfort we experience amidst our failure is um, really the thing that transforms us into the people that we, that we might become, you know, reaching that full potential as it were, is only possible for willing to push ourselves to the edge of what we’re capable of

[00:04:04.04] spk_0:
outside our comfort zone.

[00:04:08.04] spk_1:
Exactly. I

[00:04:09.94] spk_0:
do do organizations come to you when they’re in crisis

[00:04:13.66] spk_1:
sometimes?

[00:04:15.58] spk_0:
Yeah,

[00:05:02.54] spk_1:
yeah, I get a little bit of both. I see too equally important sides of my work. There’s the learning component. So you’re, you’ve had a failure and often folks are not treating each other very well or they’re not communicating very well and they needed a little bit of support, um maximizing what they can learn from that event. So there’s the learning aspect of the work that I do, trying to maximize what we, what we take away and how do we move forward from our failures more wisely? Um, and then there’s what I might call like a risk taking or the innovation side, How do we create the conditions under which we can, we feel safe taking those risks where we’re confident enough to do the things that we might not know how to do yet. Um in order to push ourselves to keep up with the pace of change or are competitive pressures or whatever they might be.

[00:05:16.94] spk_0:
Mhm. I feel like the, the combination of your work and, and you’re thinking, uh, you should be, your name should be Ashley Exemplary. Okay,

[00:05:17.64] spk_1:
I don’t know about that

[00:05:19.70] spk_0:
because you, you want people, you want us to to to reach our full potential,

[00:05:24.94] spk_1:
absolutely

[00:05:25.95] spk_0:
not just be good, you want it to be, you want us to be exemplary, That’s the way I’m that’s what I’m hearing in the first few minutes. Anyway, I’m sorry for changing your name. I don’t mean to be so brash about, you know,

[00:06:11.34] spk_1:
well, and why I why I hesitate with it is because I mean, when I first started this company, I really thought I had something like I figured something out that I’m going to help people with, right? Like I’m gonna help people have a healthier relationship with failure and the more that I do this work, it’s been gosh, 11, 12 years now, the more I realized that I actually started it, because my own relationship with failure is so troubled and I probably need this more than anyone else. So um in asking people to, I kind of reached their full potential. It came from a place of actually wanting to build a healthier relationship with failure for myself as well. And um you know, tell myself it’s okay to be wrong, sometimes it’s okay to not be perfect all the time.

[00:06:17.84] spk_0:
Well, alright, I’m still gonna stick with Ashley Exemplary, but I’m sure we don’t have to go down that path.

[00:06:28.04] spk_1:
Tell a little

[00:06:50.44] spk_0:
about your your personal experience with failure. You you are public about that, you’re one of the things that you sent me to read in advance says, you know, you uh many of us including myself, you know, don’t have the right the right healthy relationship with failure, which we’ll be getting that we’ll talk about. But what’s a little bit of your own, your own background that I guess that led you to the you’re saying lead you to the work.

[00:10:35.74] spk_1:
Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I could I could share that story in so many ways. Um I was inspired to work on this topic when I was working for Engineers without Borders, um working in international Development, working on an agricultural food chain project many years ago and saw lots of failures. I was working with incredible colleagues um who you know, were hand selected by the funding agency because they were exceptional. Um and yet when the when the donor came in to kind of ask about what was going right and wrong, um my exceptional colleagues, you know, didn’t didn’t necessarily share the whole truth. It didn’t lie, but but didn’t talk about the real fundamental challenges that that they were, that they were sharing. And I remember asking them afterwards, you know, why why didn’t you tell that guy what we’ve been talking about? Like he can actually change it for future projects and and it’s an oversimplification, but it was essentially like, you know, oh actually you’re so naive, like there’s no way we could do that. You know, we like, we like our jobs were great at our jobs because we can work around these things. Um, and telling that we all know, telling the donor isn’t necessarily the most advisable lot telling the donut the project was designed, it was designed incorrectly is not the most advisable thing for job longevity, shall we say. And, and I was really struck by that because it, of course they were right. Um, but it was my idealistic nature kind of held held tight and it frustrated me to no end that we can’t have those more honest conversations. Um, A a a longtime mentor, tim Brodhead described it as the dance of deceptions where um, nonprofits pretend to have the answer and the owners pretend to believe them and we just keep dancing in this dance of deception. Um, so that was really what sparked my passion for changing it. But I’d say on a, on a personal note as well, I, um, I had, I was at a very low point coming back from that experience. Um, and, and I, you know, I don’t need to describe for your listeners where we’ve all had ups and downs, especially over the last couple of years, but just in a, in a real, real pit. Um, and was, was walking, I pulled myself together was walking down the street and and realized that on the outside, you know, that the strangers that were passing me by, they’d never know how, how broken I felt inside. Um, and then, and I just had this aha moment where I realized that just like me, they, They could be suffering and I’d never know or they could be going through what I was going through or worse, 10 times worse. And I never know. And I had this moment of I’m just, I don’t, I don’t even know how to describe it, uh, clarity and I, and I, and love for these strangers. I was, I was passing on the street thinking that they could and probably would feel the suffering that, that I was in as well at some point. Um, and I, and I think that moment that made me like us a little wiser, a little more human, a little more empathetic. And, and I really held on to that belief in that moment because I think it helps me remember that those moments of suffering are what transform us and allow us to be more human. And that, that’s that those, that the hardest moments that were in, um, make us more

[00:10:51.24] spk_0:
human. That’s very at this poignant. Thank you for sharing. And you know, the, the empathy it makes me think of empathy for, for the,

[00:10:52.15] spk_1:
uh, the folks

[00:12:25.04] spk_0:
that your engineer colleagues were hiding the truth from. Uh, empathy for donors that we may conceal the truth from. Or I’ll just come right out and call it lie to about our, about our outcomes. But so empathy for those folks and, and how, how much of a disservice it is and how wrong it is to treat them that way, whether it’s a, I don’t know, it was a foundation or a government entity, whoever your engineering colleagues were talking to, you know, with billions of dollars of resources potentially. Or, you know, even if that wasn’t the case, but that could, that, that type of funder could be on one end of the spectrum, or is it a $50 donor who contributed to a larger program that I didn’t yield the outcomes that, that, that we had, we had hoped for maybe in, in, in, in any, in any kind of senate. Oh, it’s healthcare or feeding or whatever. Um, you know, the disservice we do, um, when we’re, when we’re not upfront and you know that I think it’s informed by all the talk about transparency and authenticity and honesty over the past. You know, that I guess that’s probably been 5, 7 years or so we’re supposed to be donor centric. Well, it started with donor centrism and then honesty and transparency and um, you know, we want to, we want to live the things that that were aspiring to.

[00:13:30.34] spk_1:
Absolutely. And I think we get into these patterns of interacting with each other where we feel we have to show up in a certain way. Um, and I I see, you know, we think that sharing our failures will show weakness. It will show, you know, it’ll show our incompetence, it will show that we don’t, we don’t really, you know, have it all together, we’re figuring it out as we go along. Um, and I fundamentally believe that when we share our failure as well as in we take ownership of them. We talk about what we learn, we talk about, you know, how we’re incorporating that going forward. It shows incredible strength and courage. Um, and I, the example I love to use because it’s so universal is um, is Babe Ruth, I’m famous baseball player who is famous for hitting somewhere in so many home runs, but he also held the record for the number of strikeouts for like over a decade, you know, and when he was asked about that, he said, um, well, every strike leads me closer to the next home

[00:13:34.28] spk_0:
run.

[00:14:10.24] spk_1:
And I think, I mean, we could all, we could all be a little bit more like Babe, as in, you know, he’s not denying that he got those strikes, like, yeah, I struck out, you know, I made the wrong call, maybe I lost us the game, I swung at the wrong pitch. Um, but I’m going to make sure that that gets me, that experience gets me or us the team closer to the next home run and here’s how and that can show incredible strength and courage if we can share our failures in that way. Um, and yeah, and like you said, demonstrate that authenticity and perhaps that it feels incredibly vulnerable, you know, even when we have that story of what the next home run is, it still feels terrifying to share those stories, but um but it can in that sense that you’re still doing it. It shows incredible strength to those listening

[00:14:32.74] spk_0:
I’ve said many times and many guests have said to uh vulnerability is a sign of strength,

[00:14:35.34] spk_1:
not

[00:14:35.93] spk_0:
not weakness, it’s a sign of confidence, not not weakness, vulnerability, humility.

[00:14:43.04] spk_1:
Yeah, one of those things that’s so easy to say, and then when you’re in the moment, almost impossible to

[00:14:59.84] spk_0:
do, alright, uh let’s talk about the ideal relationship with with failure, we’re getting into some of your more than nuts and bolts. Uh you have, you have a pretty straightforward cycle and then and then we’ll talk about why why we go astray?

[00:15:06.40] spk_1:
We

[00:15:07.10] spk_0:
go astray from the ideal. That’s that’s your practice, the filling the void between the ideal and the and the reality.

[00:16:21.14] spk_1:
Absolutely. So the the ideal is what I refer to as intelligent failure or a healthy relationship with failure. How do we feel? Well, basically um starts with acknowledging that failure is inevitable, just uh you know, expecting it from that perspective so that we can detect it early ideally. Um and then we want, when we detect it, we want to analyze it effectively to maximize our learning after that we want to apply that learning, we want to let that lessons learned, report collect dust on a shelf, how do we apply that to actually change our behaviors. Um, do something new or try again whatever it is. Um, and then how do we let that whole experience uh, inspire us to take, continue to take risks and bold action knowing that even the things that we try that don’t work out, we are able to recognize them, learn from them and apply that learning and move forward more wisely. Um, so that opens up more room to take risks and innovate, which of course leads to more failure, but hopefully different failures the next time around the loop and you can check out. Um, so if you google intelligent failure, you’ll probably see the loop come up on google, You can see the visual there.

[00:17:53.04] spk_0:
It’s time for a break. Turn to communications the problem because of their local missions, US community foundations are largely ignored by national media. So when the media covers philanthropy and public policy, community foundations are often left out the turn to approach media relations, building relationships. You’ve heard me talk about that before with national journalists and getting local community foundations op EDS and interviews. Also owned media, creating a website and social media presence to showcase the work of community foundations and capacity building ongoing resources and training for communications teams at local community foundations. So the community foundations were not getting attention. Turn to turn that around. You don’t have to be a community foundation to have turned to turn around your absence in the media, turn to communications turn hyphen two dot c o This applies in all kinds of realms. I mean, I’ve seen it applied to software development. I mean, it certainly applies to, uh, nonprofit community.

[00:17:59.33] spk_1:
It’s

[00:18:00.16] spk_0:
just, it’s sort of universally applied, isn’t it?

[00:20:07.04] spk_1:
I mean, I think so. I think failure is a universal experience and um, and we want to react to it in that way. The, and I should stay just to give your listeners the utmost respect. Like I know they already know what I just said. Everyone already knows how we should respond to failure. We know we should, you know, detect it, acknowledge it, analyze it, change their behavior and continue to take those risks. Everyone knows that. Um, and in many ways we think we do it because we know what it is. But the reality is that almost none of us myself included are able to actually practice, um, that intelligent failure consistently when we’re in the midst of it. The great analogy that my co author Diana Kander shared with me was it’s analogous to what we do when we fall like when we, when we fall down, our instincts are to, you know, to put our arms out to brace our fall, we tight, tense up and we tend to break wrists and hips and all sorts of other things. Falling is the number one reason why people end up in the hospital. Um, and yet there’s a right way to fall. Uh and there’s there’s examples of physiotherapists and and even this 80 year old man that I read about that like practices falling well every day. And it goes around like assisted living centers teaching other generally older people how to fall well. And it’s totally different. You you let your body relax to kind of absorb more of the shock, you protect, you know, your head or your side with your arms depending on where you’re falling and kind of tuck and roll out of it. Um but that’s not what our instincts are and most people have never thought about that, right? We we don’t and the same is true with failure. We don’t think that our instincts might lead us astray. And no one, probably no one’s ever told us that our instincts might lead us astray. Um but in almost all cases, um our instincts and and often organizational norms, learned behaviors will cause us not to fill intelligently. Um and so we need to practice our tuck and roll out of our failures. Uh and and learn what that is.

[00:20:26.74] spk_0:
I just have one correction to make. Uh they they are our listeners, our listeners.

[00:20:31.14] spk_1:
Thank you. So

[00:20:52.94] spk_0:
where do we go astray? Um there there you call them exit ramps that we can uh we avail ourselves of very well as you’re saying, you know, very conveniently, but not not more than convenient instinctively. We avail ourselves of uh Mhm exiting the the ideal that ideal loop of failing intelligently.

[00:21:00.54] spk_1:
Oh, you know, it’s um how long is your podcast? Because I feel like this is the whole like I’ve been doing this work for 10 years, this is the whole reason I have a job. So I could go on for days about this. Well

[00:21:12.23] spk_0:
we have an hour,

[00:21:13.17] spk_1:
okay,

[00:21:14.09] spk_0:
Give us about another 40

[00:21:15.30] spk_1:
minutes. I will, I will try to but

[00:21:30.84] spk_0:
we don’t but I also would like we we need to spend some time on how to re conceive failure, you know, in your organization so that you’re avoiding some of the avoiding some of these exit ramps. So maybe maybe not every

[00:21:35.14] spk_1:
not

[00:21:36.22] spk_0:
every one of the the exits, but you know, there’s there’s some, there’s like like there’s some introspection involved.

[00:22:33.24] spk_1:
Yeah, I think there’s some common ones for sure. So I mean a big one folks, we tend to assume that it’s easy to detect failure. We just know when it happens. But a big challenge that I see is the is the kind of denial or escalating commitment um biases that we have that prevent us from even detecting that what we’re doing is a failure and have us keep doing the things that we probably should stop. You know, that denial comes from a place of either, we’re not getting the information that we need are asking the right folks for feedback about what’s working and what’s not um or simply confirmation bias. You know, we want to believe that things are working on are going well. So we look for information that reinforces that. Um, what about

[00:22:36.14] spk_0:
Tito, can we talk a little about personal and institutional, both on both levels? Ego.

[00:22:51.84] spk_1:
That’s interesting. I, so I’ll give you a personal example of this. Um, just before I started my company fell forward, I started a website called admitting failure And it was a place for anyone to share their stories of failure and learning, you know, never again, what a mistake he repeated because this website existed built into the database. There’s gonna be thousands, thousands of failure stories shared on this. Got a lot of attention to a lot of media interviews and you know, I, I don’t know, it’s been whatever 13 years since then. And there are 32 stories shared on that site. 32

[00:23:14.91] spk_0:
is a much more exemplary place than we realized certainly than you realize you’re just a negative, negative

[00:23:21.95] spk_1:
asking people

[00:23:23.26] spk_0:
Of humanity why why are you so harsh on humanity? There’s only, there only been 32 failures in 13 years.

[00:24:57.94] spk_1:
Exactly. Um, and, and on the other side of that, I’m totally amazed that 32 per strangers wanted to put the failures on my, but uh, and, and I had, I had some, some donor funding for that. And I remember the day very clearly when they were telling me like, no, this, this isn’t working actually. You have zero stories on this, this experiment failed, ironically the site about failure failed. You need to do something else. And I’m supposed to be great at this. You know, I’m supposed to be the one that has that healthy relationship with failure. That’s what I’m trying to help people create by building this site after all. And I’m sitting there talking to donors being like, you’re wrong, let me show you all of the reasons why this is working. And there were like a couple of indicators that it was going well, but they were right obviously, and I just, I don’t know if it, I wouldn’t call it ego so much as I loved the idea so much and I wanted it to succeed so much and and perhaps a little bit of sunk costs fallacy to like I’d sunk a lot of my time and energy into, to making it and I really wanted it to work that it was really hard for me to see that it hadn’t worked. And I had that optimism bias as well. Like I just, I thought that if we just kept at it and if I just did a few different things, we might figure it out and ultimately it wasn’t, it wasn’t gonna work if you build it, they will not share your favorite stories and just and and it was only through the process of accepting that that I was able to start fail forward and and realized what was actually needed and what I actually want to spend my time on, but but it didn’t happen immediately.

[00:25:21.84] spk_0:
Is there is there such a thing as a a final failure that that we we just it’s unreal. It’s unrecoverable. We’re going beyond, we’re getting little metaphysical, but that’s such a beautiful

[00:25:23.94] spk_1:
question. I

[00:25:32.44] spk_0:
mean, on the beyond the organization, maybe it’s an individual, you know, is there such a thing on either level as the final unrecoverable failure?

[00:27:20.54] spk_1:
And you know, I think it’s always possible that any failure will destroy us. I think it’s also always possible that any failure could transform us into something wiser if we let it, I think it has less to do about the actual facts of the event and more to do with where we’re at as as human beings, you know, do we have, Do we um do we have the resources we need uh and the support we need to actually recover and try again? Um Do people believe in us? Do we believe in ourselves? Do we have enough time to do that healing process and get enough distance from it that we can look objectively and learn the lessons that we need to do? We have the self awareness um to kind of ask ourselves the questions that we need to and bring in the people we need to to be able to maximize what we can learn from it. There’s a lot of different pieces that have to be at work there. Um but even the worst failures, I always um I always believe it is possible to use those moments uh to become more human. Vm The metaphor I love to use is the japanese art of repairing pottery with gold, I believe it’s called. Um So you take these broken pieces of pottery and you you glue them together with gold enamel and the pieces are just stunning and the art form recognizes that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. You’re not hiding it. You know, you’re not trying to put it back to just the way it was. Um you know, you’re saying like I I can be better because of this.

[00:27:29.14] spk_0:
So you don’t think there is

[00:27:30.59] spk_1:
a

[00:27:32.04] spk_0:
final final failure. If if you have the right support confidence resources, you know, the things that the things that you describe Alright, alright, I

[00:27:41.86] spk_1:
don’t, I don’t think any failure has to be final.

[00:27:44.08] spk_0:
I think you can mess

[00:27:45.12] spk_1:
up really, really bad and you can hurt a lot of people and and and and then it becomes even more important that you do the near impossible work of repairing with gold.

[00:28:10.04] spk_0:
Mhm. Those, you know, those resources that support even the confidence um

[00:28:11.44] spk_1:
that’s going to vary

[00:28:46.24] spk_0:
depending on your background, I’m I’m thinking of women minorities who don’t uh don’t in, in, in a lot of, a lot of situations have, you know have that even the internal the self confidence, let alone the external support and confidence resources that more privileged folks do have, that’s gonna, that’s gonna affect your your outcome from the same failure across all across all folks.

[00:30:23.44] spk_1:
I know and it is a who uh just in the injustice piled on the injustice, I guess that’s how I might describe that one that that the privileged and the ones that that have all those opportunities. Um you know, it’s it’s easy to feel it’s easy for for us to stand up and say like, yeah, feel fast, feel often go out, feel fast and break things, you know, and you put that poster up on your wall uh, when that speaks to a very small sliver of the population that can actually do that with that kind of gung ho rara Silicon Valley, um pizzas. Um it’s because, you know, they have endless resources and and uh and a and a culture that supports folks to try try again. Um, and I think, I think what’s really needed across um across those boundaries, like, you know, for for for all of us um to offer each other grace in times of failure that, you know, we all need that time and we’re all capable and and it’s always possible to um, to move forward more wisely. So how do we give each other that grace of the second chance um would be would be my invitation and not just to the to the uh, the privileged few, but to

[00:30:30.24] spk_0:
everyone interesting. Our, our conversation has taken a different turn for

[00:30:34.74] spk_1:
half

[00:30:35.04] spk_0:
an hour or so. But that’s fine.

[00:30:36.11] spk_1:
I

[00:30:37.96] spk_0:
only got to the

[00:30:38.55] spk_1:
first step around the loop and the exits. My goodness

[00:30:46.34] spk_0:
you did. I know well you’re, you’re, you’re suffering a lackluster host. You know, I, I think I digress and no etcetera. But uh,

[00:30:49.66] spk_1:
no,

[00:30:50.03] spk_0:
I think very, very informative introspective. You know, I appreciate your sharing your not your own, not only your own stories but

[00:31:00.04] spk_1:
your thoughts.

[00:33:04.74] spk_0:
It’s time for Tony’s take two. I wish for you. Easy, comfortable donor relationships. What am I talking about? The kinds of relationships where you can pick up the phone, the person is going to take your call or if you leave a message, you’re very, very confident. There’s, there’s no question they’re gonna call you back. The kinds of relationships where you can write a quick handwritten note. It doesn’t have to be a formal letter 8.5 by 11 word document. The kinds of relationships where there’s trust. There’s and these relationships are fun. Right? Those are the kinds of relationships I hope you have with your donors planned giving donors or otherwise it doesn’t make a difference. Um, I posted about this on linkedin and Kirsten Hill suggested the word authentic to describe these relationships. Absolutely, Joanna brody also commented and reminded me that these kinds of relationships ease tension, Joanna. Absolutely right. So that if there is ever conflict, hopefully there isn’t. But you know, things happen on both sides. If there is ever a conflict it’s so much easier to resolve when you’ve got these comfortable authentic donor relationships. These are the kinds of relationships I hope you’re striving for and I hope you’re enjoying with your donors. That is Tony’s take two. We’ve got boo koo but loads more time for improve your relationship with failure with Ashley. Good. See relationships again, the relationships are ubiquitous. Let’s talk more on, on an organizational level. What, what, what kind of culture? Um, what kind of ceo do, what can a

[00:33:08.35] spk_1:
supervisor

[00:33:18.14] spk_0:
of others who is not necessarily the ceo due to, to foster this. Um, intelligence failing.

[00:33:21.34] spk_1:
Mm hmm. What

[00:33:25.04] spk_0:
do we need to encourage others to think about? What do we need to do for ourselves?

[00:33:26.95] spk_1:
I

[00:33:31.14] spk_0:
guess acknowledging our own failures when they, when they occur setting the

[00:34:58.54] spk_1:
example. Mm hmm. Um again, there’s many ways I can answer that question. I think there’s an there’s an individual because organizations are made up of individuals. There’s something that everyone of us as individuals can do and leaders most importantly must do if they want to see a healthy relationship with failure thrive? Uh, so there’s the individual actions. There’s also kind of the organizational structures. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna touch on the individual side first. Um, and that’s simply, I, I love to talk about four mindsets or like our ground rules that I often set when I’m facilitating groups. Um So the ground rules are blameless nous humility, empathy and curiosity. So the blameless nous is recognizing that everyone makes, no one shows up to work hoping to mess up. You know, we’re all trying to do the best job possible. So blame really doesn’t make sense. You know what you really want to be doing is figuring out how exceptional talented, hard working, intelligent people. I made the wrong call and and we ended up with the result that was that was undesirable. Um You know, how did we arrive at that conclusion? What what information was missing? How you know it’s a process vlog what how so how did that happen? Never who who doesn’t matter. Um because everyone’s trying their best. We want to know how are great people. Um You know I got to the wrong answer right?

[00:35:11.64] spk_0:
So before we move to the empathy we we can we can avoid the finger pointing. I mean maybe we do that. Maybe that we do that behind closed doors but you know to try to improve. But but there’s not there’s not a lot of value in you know who caused who caused it. Like it could be

[00:35:21.69] spk_1:
that there’s no value in it. It’s completely counterproductive

[00:35:25.94] spk_0:
that

[00:35:26.73] spk_1:
that blaming someone has the exact opposite impact that you want it to. So it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. Maybe they deserved to be finger pointed, who cares? Because by pointing fingers at them, you are guaranteeing that they show up even more

[00:35:41.31] spk_0:
defensive because they know

[00:35:42.75] spk_1:
that you’re blaming them and therefore the more defensive they are, the less likely they’re ever going to be to learn from that experience because you never learn if you’re stuck in that defensive position because you’re just there protecting yourself,

[00:35:55.17] spk_0:
protecting your job

[00:35:56.02] spk_1:
or you know, whatever,

[00:35:57.64] spk_0:
it’s not only them, everyone around them will see, see the, see the blame, see the injury that it causes to the blamed person or people and and react the way you’re describing. So

[00:36:21.53] spk_1:
it’s legitimate to be angry and upset that somebody did the wrong thing, I get that. So but deal with that within yourself before having the conversation with them. If you want to maximize what you can learn and move forward more wisely, I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s almost impossible,

[00:36:25.92] spk_0:
like so much of

[00:36:26.80] spk_1:
this, but but that’s the goal.

[00:36:30.18] spk_0:
Maybe it’s easier than almost impossible. Okay,

[00:36:33.90] spk_1:
depends on, it depends on the situation,

[00:36:41.33] spk_0:
reasonably likely that you can do this with some with some some of your own introspection.

[00:36:43.23] spk_1:
Yeah,

[00:36:44.35] spk_0:
it takes a lot

[00:37:48.03] spk_1:
of self awareness. Yeah. But yeah, that’s blameless nous right, recognizing that no matter how bad the decision the chances are that person did it with good intentions. Um the so the second and humility Um you know, so often we want to blame as opposed to looking at ourselves as I often say in groups, you know, even if the failure was 99% not your fault. What’s the 1% of things you could have done differently? What’s the 1% you did contribute or did what didn’t you do that? You might have, you know, really looking for your your own role in trying to see and own whatever piece you can the the empathy piece. I use the word empathy almost to get folks out of that tendency to judge. Obviously those judgmental thoughts are always there, especially in terms of failure when emotions are high. Um, and often the consequences are high. But really trying to get ourselves out of that tendency to judge and move into a stance of empathy, recognizing that um, you know, really putting yourselves in their shoes that you can see how they could have arrived at that conclusion or that decision, right? I understand they might have had this lens, you know, really trying to understand where they might be coming from. So even if you don’t agree, you can at least empathize with with their position. And then finally, probably the most important one.

[00:38:05.61] spk_0:
This is the second time we’ve talked about empathy.

[00:38:08.72] spk_1:
Mm hmm. It’s important that

[00:38:16.22] spk_0:
there’s a lot of a lot of that in this work because we’re talking because what we’re talking about its failure. You if you if you’re not going to have empathy for, you know earlier we were talking about the people who are mistreated,

[00:38:22.62] spk_1:
you lied

[00:38:28.72] spk_0:
to deceived, you know, whatever by errors of omission or um, You know, but now we’re talking about empathy for the folks who contributed even 1% to the failure.

[00:41:05.91] spk_1:
Yeah, often I hear when I’m facilitating in teams, you know, staff want to blame their boss, you didn’t set me up for success or the executive didn’t do this or the donor didn’t do this or whatever it is. Um, and it’s, and it’s stepping back from that that your judgments may be true, but it doesn’t matter. Can you understand where they’re coming from so that you can have a conversation with them about how you do better going forward. That’s the whole goal, right? The goal is learning moving forward more wisely. Um, anyway, the last of the four values or mindsets um, is curiosity and this is the one that I probably spend the most time on only because I think it’s, we’re so we’re such great problem solvers, especially in times of failure, we just want to identify the problem, I want to fix it and often what folks need much, much more than problem solving cause if it was easy to solve they would’ve already done it is the curiosity, you know, trying to, trying to help others deepen their learning around what around the experience and ask the curious questions to help understand their perspective. So you can get at that rich or learning to allow yourself to move forward more wisely. Um so those are those are the four mindsets that ideally, like I said, leaders exemplify, they share their own failures, they, you know, with that humility and that blameless nous. They get curious when other failures happen um and they empathize, you know, when they’re, when they’re folks maybe don’t, you know, implement their ideas as well as they could, but there uh they empathize with them and and ask how they can do better and then so that’s the, that’s the individual side and basically that’s for you, do this for your, your golden right? You might not even need the organizational side, but the reality is each individual, you know, it’s it’s a lot to put on an individual to ask them to show up with those four mindsets all the time. Um that and that our organizational structures often make that very difficult. So how do we shape our organizations? So that that’s the norm is basically the questions that I often ask, um executive teams because they’re in the position to start to shape recruitment systems and training systems and performance appraisal systems and um you know, the way stories are told and what stories get told and how people do after action reviews and do we create enough time and resources for those and basically my whole job on the organizational structure side is to make sure we’re not expecting X, but rewarding for why, as in like we’re expecting a healthy relationship with failure and people to own their failures and work together to have these conversations, but we reward people who defend themselves and throw other people under the bus and um, and prove that it wasn’t their fault. You know, we’re trying to avoid that, uh, that folly

[00:41:44.71] spk_0:
Many years ago when I was in the first year of the podcast, which is 10, this is our, this is our 10th year. So this is our 12th year. This part, this is our 12th year, 2010. Um, I had someone on from the new york times, Stephanie strom back when there was such a thing called the nonprofit beat in, in a, in a, you know, a world leader newspaper that doesn’t exist anymore. But she covered something that the World Bank ran called failure Fair

[00:41:46.41] spk_1:
Fair

[00:42:00.20] spk_0:
Fair had an E at the end F A I R E. Um, and they were, um, for listeners, this was the August 27th 2010 show. Um, the World Bank was highlighting

[00:42:01.79] spk_1:
failures

[00:42:08.70] spk_0:
was failure Fair be out be open. Um, and you know, 12 years ago that that wasn’t such

[00:42:11.10] spk_1:
a, there

[00:42:53.50] spk_0:
was, we were in the dark ages, I’d say of, of, of intelligent failure may be failing intelligently. Probably didn’t, maybe not even even existed as a phrase, but um, it was, it was the dark ages in any case. Um, so I, I don’t, I don’t know if the World Bank continues that or did it again, but They did it in 2010 and for such a high profile organization, International Organization to do that. I thought it was exemplary. You know, it merited coverage. The new york times felt felt that. So uh of course the new york times follows non profit radio that’s how they get their ideas for for chauffeur articles is by listening to the property naturally. Um anyway, just a shout out to the World Bank and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of failure fair.

[00:43:18.60] spk_1:
Yeah, I spoke at one of my hosted the, if you excuse my language, the puck up nights in Toronto for a while. Um Knights, Knights. Yeah, they are, it’s not necessarily in the non profit world, but it’s largely entrepreneurs that get together and it’s kind of a a very authentic networking experience. Pre covid obviously, but a

[00:43:23.19] spk_0:
very good chance

[00:43:24.25] spk_1:
to come together and share share failures. Where

[00:43:26.89] spk_0:
where was that? Was that in Canada?

[00:44:00.39] spk_1:
They are in hundreds of cities all over the world now started by Leticia Gasca out of Mexico City and spread across the world. I I’m a real, I mean obviously I hosted, I’m a real fan of these events for many reasons. I think the best thing that they do is de stigmatize failure, they bring, you know, all these, all these earnest folks together and they have a couple of great speakers lined up to share their failures honestly and openly, and you just had this experience in the audience of watching these people share and you’re like, oh my gosh, like that’s a really bad failure and they’re still standing

[00:44:05.13] spk_0:
really,

[00:44:05.37] spk_1:
really,

[00:44:05.64] spk_0:
I

[00:44:07.52] spk_1:
Remember 1 1 guy,

[00:44:09.98] spk_0:
the session

[00:44:10.50] spk_1:
I was hosting, it was like millions and millions and millions of dollars, and I was like, I’m getting nervous as your host.

[00:44:17.70] spk_0:
But

[00:45:44.09] spk_1:
anyway, and you and you see, and you see that they that they lived through it and that they are stronger because of it, like you and you watch them and and you know, no one’s throwing tomatoes at them, you know, they really are the strong wise leaders at the front of the room still. And so there’s this real de stigmatization that happens, it allows everyone in the audience to kind of put down their usual masks that you wear when you’re at networking events and actually show up a little bit more more human as I’ve said a number of times in this interview. Um so I love them from that perspective, I think the danger in them is that we assume that if we share those failures, no one else is going to make that mistake, like that’s how we’re going to learn, and I would say they’re not a very good learning tool because it’s so rare that someone in the audience isn’t exactly the same position and needs to learn that exact same lesson. So I think it’s great from a cultural perspective. Um, and I’d say the other risk in them that I I feel really uncomfortable with them and not for profit world is the celebrating failure because those failures have real consequences on people’s livelihoods. So when you have an event and you’re making light of them, i it just it doesn’t sit well with me. I’m all for de stigmatizing failure in a healthy relationship with failure. But I can’t get behind celebrating it because you know, you’re talking about people’s livelihoods. Um, and

[00:46:01.38] spk_0:
maybe people who are impacted in other ways by by the failure. You know, if the if the project or program didn’t go well because we didn’t understand the culture in in Eritrea than than those people of you know, there may be relationships damaged there

[00:46:05.98] spk_1:
that

[00:46:09.68] spk_0:
where we, where we came with good intentions but uh, you know, but messed up people’s lives on the ground somewhere to

[00:46:41.88] spk_1:
Yeah, and to me that I mean that is not to be celebrated right? That is like I have a moral obligation to maximize what I learned from this experience. Like I’m allowed to get it wrong, I’m I’m not, I don’t have to be perfect, but if I do get it wrong, it is my responsibility to learn what I can from that and share that. And I think that’s more if we can come at it from that tone. It speaks a little bit more to me than I think some of these events got a little too um celebratory,

[00:46:43.07] spk_0:
celebratory. Yeah. Not

[00:46:45.22] spk_1:
to say that the lights aren’t fun. They are fun, but acronym is fun, but you know, it’s it’s from a place of recognizing how important it is that we learn from those.

[00:46:57.68] spk_0:
Wasn’t that uh the premise for your database was

[00:47:02.92] spk_1:
that

[00:47:04.08] spk_0:
nobody would make these mistakes again

[00:47:07.48] spk_1:
was wrong?

[00:47:24.78] spk_0:
I know I’m not I’m not I’m not I’m not blaming wright. I’m not blaming, I’m trying to I’m trying to be empathetic, but that was one of your objectives was to to prevent this from happening again. But right now, I mean the likelihood of someone being in the same circumstance, you know, a similar program, similar set of facts. Very reading

[00:47:34.54] spk_1:
that particular story on that web, particular website that they may or may not know about is that it’s pretty unlikely

[00:47:46.98] spk_0:
right? That too, Yes, they’ve got got to go to the website and read it. Yes. Um

[00:47:47.42] spk_1:
made a few mistakes in my assumptions around that project.

[00:48:00.67] spk_0:
What about a story um case um anonymized or not. I don’t, you know what, where uh an organization turned around. It’s it’s it’s thinking and maybe maybe maybe didn’t necessarily fail a second time more more intelligently,

[00:48:10.37] spk_1:
but you

[00:48:10.50] spk_0:
know, where you you saw, you saw a change

[00:48:12.86] spk_1:
in an in an organ at

[00:48:17.67] spk_0:
an organizational level that was that was going to make it more likely that in the future they would fail intelligently,

[00:49:00.97] spk_1:
You know, it’s funny, I often get asked for organizational examples like who do we look to to really um you know, be a role model for this and I shy away from it mostly because it’s not an arrival, like it’s not, you know, I have figured this out, I now have the perfect organizational structure and our leadership is exemplifying these things and we have like gold, gold star certification, we are an intelligence failure organization. It just, You know, I’ve been doing this for 10 years, I’ve worked with some incredible organizations, incredible leaders um and it’s, there is no end point in this,

[00:49:04.35] spk_0:
it’s a journey then

[00:49:23.37] spk_1:
maybe we’ll talk about it individually, it’s probably a little bit easier. I’ve been trying to promote a healthy relationship with failure for over a decade and I still struggle with my own failures and I still respond badly sometimes, you know, I’m aware of it often or probably hopefully I can recognize

[00:49:30.39] spk_0:
it in myself a little

[00:50:58.26] spk_1:
faster than most people do, but I still suck at it. So for me it is not about like this organization is totally figured it out, it’s how do we see this as a practice? Um kinda like staying in shape I guess, you know that we’re going to the gym and we’re lifting those heavy weights because we know that we have to keep doing that if we want to keep our muscle mass, like I think the same thing is true with um with a healthy relationship with failure, we want to keep pushing ourselves, keep taking those risks and seeing ourselves fall down and right, I know what I’m supposed to do when I do this, I’m supposed to own it and I’m bringing together the people that were involved to analyze it and that’s really uncomfortable and I don’t want to have that conversation, but I’m going to and I’m going to try to change my behavior and I’m going to ask for people to tell me when I make that mistake again. Um and I’m going to continue to push myself and that’s that’s kind of the the forever cycle. There isn’t necessarily an arriving um and I think there’s a lot of, a lot of groups that I’ve worked with that have taken, you know, three steps forward, two steps back, you know, another step or two for, you know, it gets a it’s hard to keep up. Um It’s hard, there, there is no example is basically my long winded way of saying that that, but there are a lot of incredible organizations who are doing incredible things with incredible leadership um really striving to make what is not instinctive work. Um

[00:51:14.36] spk_0:
Yes, counterintuitive, not right, but it’s a it’s a journey, it’s a practice. Alright, alright, you told an interesting story on another conversation with someone about um

[00:51:15.66] spk_1:
one

[00:51:24.96] spk_0:
Step Forward, two steps back um a an explorer in the in the North Pole. I thought that was a poignant story. Can you

[00:51:30.46] spk_1:
absolutely share

[00:51:31.94] spk_0:
That 1? You know what I’m talking about?

[00:51:39.66] spk_1:
I do. I do and you know what his name is totally escaping me. So please go back in your show notes and like reference the name. I’ll look it up after the

[00:51:41.57] spk_0:
interview.

[00:53:39.95] spk_1:
Um But it was a an explorer who an arctic explorer. So on the arctic ice sheets um And the North Pole has no no landmass, right? It’s just ice sheets that are constantly constantly moving around. He’s trying to make it to the North Pole. And you know, he’d walk and walk for hours and hours and at the end of um you know 10 12, 14 hours of walking. You have to set up camp and rest because you know, he’s still human and he said his gps and he’d wake up in the morning and would often find out that he had floated back and undid all of the work that he’d done the days before trying to make that progress. And he would still have to pack up his camp and keep marching towards that North Pole. And how um oh gosh! You can only imagine how that would feel like the futility of it, the the powerlessness in that moment of changing the directions of the ocean currents underneath you that are moving you further away from your definition? I think such a beautiful metaphor for what we often experience in our work. You know, we work so hard and toil and just the, the forces of the ocean can pull us away from that goal. And um, and he had some great wisdom to share and again, I apologize for not remembering his name, but it was basically he’d wake up and and even with that information that he had just been moved far further away from his gold while he slept, um, he’d set his sight on one ice mount, You know, whatever it was 50 ft away and say, you know what if I make it there today, that’s success and that’s that’s what he needed to pack up his gear, put back on his skis and and keep going and he gets that iceman and say, okay if I make it to that iceman today is a success and and little by little those little, those little those days, those little goals, you know, eventually, um I reached that North Pole goal

[00:53:55.35] spk_0:
mm actually, good founder of fail forward. The company is at fail forward dot org and at fell forward Ashley, thank you very much. Very stimulating, interesting conversation. Thanks thanks so much for sharing

[00:54:03.95] spk_1:
my pleasure

[00:54:07.34] spk_0:
next week. Talk about humility. I’m working on

[00:54:09.24] spk_1:
it.

[00:54:10.14] spk_0:
If you missed any part of this week’s show, I beseech you find it at tony-martignetti dot com.

[00:54:16.44] spk_1:
We’re

[00:54:53.34] spk_0:
sponsored by turn to communications pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c o. Our creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff shows social media is by Susan Chavez. Marc Silverman is our Web guy and this music is by scott Stein. Thank you for that. Affirmation scotty be with me next week for nonprofit radio Big nonprofit ideas for the The other 95%. Go out and be great, mm hmm.

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