I had the good fortune to sit through Mr. Toyoda, CEO of Toyota, Marc Benioff, CEO of and Colin Powell speaking about the economy, business and leadership last week at Cloudforce Tokyo.

My favourite comment was from Colin Powell on failure – roughly paraphrased:

Failure is a part of life, you will fail. So learn to accept it and work through it:
1. Accept it is your failure. Don’t blame others.
2. Fix it
3. Then shake it .. move on. Too many people hold onto that failure, cannot deal with it. Never linger on the failure. You do not drive looking in the rear view mirror. You look ahead

At a school, a young girl stood up and asked a question.  She asked do you fail? He responded yes. It is part of life. You might fail a test. Do bad on a paper. Accept it. Learn from it. Grow and then throw the failure away. Move forward.

Wise words.


An interesting Middle East quote shared with me today:

‘Success has 1000 fathers, but failure is an orphan’.

So true. Everyone flocks to the win and shuns the failure. Which is why I always say ‘Good news should travel fast, bad news faster’. If you are a sales rep and facing failure (i.e. A lost deal, missing quota), then you need to ensure you do not become that orphan. How do you do that?

  • Make sure that all of the little things are done. Forecast accurately, do whatever internal things are required. Be on time to internal meetings. Be the picture of perfection. Demonstrate that you run a good business and that you are simply working through the issues and that your methods will win.
  • Don’t hide it. Be open about it. Deal going off the rails? Bring in executives, talk through it with your manager, let people know. If you are working on a deal and you lose it without others being involved, you will be an orphan because of YOUR own choice. But if everyone is involved, there is no one to blame. It is a shared loss.
  • Remain accountable. It is fine to blame M&E activity or something in the market, as external factors often have an impact. But, if you always end that with ‘That being said, we are driving a good business, working through the issues and ensuring we do everything to right the boat’, then people will have confidence that your actions and leadership are having an impact. They will be confident that you are the right person to lead through those tough times.

We all face tough times. It is the nature of sales and business. Good years. Bad years. But it is in the bad times that the true test of character happens and the greatness is seen in people. Something that applies to business and personal life.