You Can Be Wrong – It Doesn’t Hurt

One of the great myths in coaching/leadership is that being wrong is a sign of weakness.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  The challenge is, in a world where competition is so powerful, it’s almost natural to see things strictly through the lenses of win or lose; strength or weakness.  If that were the only option, it would follow that if I’m wrong, I’m weak.  Pretty harsh, so let’s not buy into it yet.Sometimes being wrong is the only way we can learn

Let’s look at a story of how being wrong led to success.  Gary Patterson, head coach at TCU, used to have a deliberate approach to running an offense.  It worked well for years.  In fact, TCU made it to the Rose Bowl in 2011 and won.

That win paved the way a couple of years later for TCU to make the leap to the Big 12 to play with the big boys.  Coach P’s deliberate approach to offense that had worked so well in the past was a disaster in the new era. The team went 2-7 in their conference debut.  What had been right in the past became really wrong.

Let’s pause the story for a minute and consider – if I see life as a competition, what is my response to being wrong?  I’m likely to experience denial, rationalization and often disbelief (must be some mistake, I’ll just try again.)  I may begin to act as though my identity, my character is tied to being wrong.  It becomes personal.  Think of a time when someone told you – “you’re doing it wrong.”  Was your first response to be curious or was your response like mine – justify my actions, blame some outside influence and make excuses?  Getting hooked by “I can’t be the one who’s wrong!” is a gargantuan waste of time and energy.

GP didn’t get wrapped up in the right and wrongness.  He got curious, assessed the situation, hired new fast-paced-offense coaches and handed offensive responsibility over to them – a coaching act of faith.  TCU went 12 – 1 (8-1) the next year.

Let’s go back to the myth:  being wrong is a sign of weakness.  If I worry about how I am seen, that in itself becomes the problem.  I waste time focusing on looking good instead of addressing what is not working.  Tip of the hat to Gary Patterson.  He didn’t go there.

The lesson is to choose curiosity over defensiveness and judgment. Being wrong is not a failing – it’s a failure and our job is to recover.




Have you noticed how young people are different?  As a boomer, it’s been explained to me that they are digital natives and I am a digital refugee.  Whatever it is, this generation of athletes, students and employees have grown up differently than us.  They are motivated differently, see teaming differently and have different expectations of leaders and organizations.

So what are the generations who came before them (that’s most of us) to do?  We still need to lead them and help them learn how to follow.  I’m here to help.

I want to introduce you to the leadership/coaching skill, Meet…Point…Dance*. It was first coined by Rick Tamlyn, my friend and mentor.  As an aside, Rick teaches meet…point…dance as a skill of a Bigger Game player. The Bigger Game is a powerful approach to life that Rick and his team teach. It’s a tool I use with my clients with great success.  For our use,  Meet…Point…Dance is shorthand to remind us to slow down and understand where the other person is before we jump into our story.  That means we have to drop our assumptions – like this class will be like last year’s incoming freshmen or like our second child will react like the first born! The only assumption we can safely make is that they are a different sort. When you start with Meet, you’ll likely notice the “slowing down” nature of it.  No charging headlong into a standard speech or practice plan. Instead, stop and look at the person in front of you and find out where they are – that’s the essence of Meet – understanding where the other person is.

Player Coach

Second, comes the Point.  That’s where you share your vision of the future and of them – what’s possible, what’s expected, and what is celebrated.  Then (here’s the secret to success), you Meet again.  Notice how your message is landing.  Notice their response.  Then you can Dance between where they are and where you want them to go.

When Meet…Point…Dance becomes a go-to skill for you, you will find you know the members of your team better.  You recognize the ones who are hungry to move forward, the ones who need more explanation, and those who are nervous.  You are able to lead them as individuals and they will be more willing to follow.  You will experience more success and fewer surprises.  Just remember to meet and meet and meet as part of your dance.  The Millennials are a willing bunch…especially when we see them as the unique people they are.


*Meet…Point…Dance is a skill of Bigger Game players.  The Bigger Game was created to inspire executives, leaders and individuals to get out of their comfort zones and invent the life they want.  Thanks to its creator, Rick Tamlyn ( for teaching us how to understand where other people were before we trying to get them to follow us. 


Another fallacy of leadership – or maybe it is corporate culture –or maybe some theory of A Good Campaignchange – is believing that if an organization just informs the workforce of a change several times, using all the entire communications arsenal (social media, email, internal website, etc.) that everyone will be convinced and the transformation will occur.

BTW, this isn’t arewrite of the last blog – about including people in understanding what the value of a change for them….this is the next chapter in what’s required for true transformation.  How you make change stick.

A story of change delayed:  It was IBM in 2001.  The company had embarked on a massive cultural change (one the eventually saved the company).  Everyone knew about it – it was on the website, every kick off meeting had a presentation on it and your find a video of the CEO touting how “new and different” was happening.  In the sales division, a group of us was given the charter of teaching first and second line sales managers how to coach sellers using an updated, company-wide sales method.  They had learned the method and now they were learning performance-coaching skills.  The audiences were curious and delighted with the possibilities of coaching sellers to develop, change and improve performance.

After the early adopters were through the class, we noticed the questions begin:  “When are you going to teach the executives?”  “What was the exec’s class like?”  Well you can guess that the execs had not undergone any training.  The expectation was if you change the sellers – all else would change.  You know the drill, “If we can just get THEM to change.  After all, I’m doing it right – I don’t need to change.  We’ll just change the process, tout it in every communique and it will happen!”  What we learned, what slowed the transformation was the fallacy in that belief.

The truth:  Corporate culture doesn’t change until leaders talk about the change (like a drum beat), ask different questions (because “success” looks different in a transformed culture) and measure differently.  If you want to be a new kind of organization, leadership must lead the change while they are leading the business.  It’s a little like changing out the tires on the bus as it rolls down the road.

A leader must model a new way of being, celebrate new behaviors and reward the new kinds of success.

So the myth of ALL IT TAKES IS A  GOOD MARKETING CAMPAIGN is debunked.  People have to see that the organization is serious about transformation or many will stand on the sidelines to see if they can wait it out…because, my friends, change is uncomfortable!  So that thing we call ‘irresistible leadership’ means the leader must be in 100% and willing to lead the charge.  It’s an act of faith in the future you want to create.

Reflection on a Goal Accomplished

I completed a Big Hairy Hairy Goal this week (thanks, Jim Collins, for the term BHAG!)  I’ve been a coach fImageor 11 years and over 4000 coaching hours ago.  Somewhere about month 6 of my coaching career, I decided I wanted to be a MASTER Coach.  I had some mentors who were just amazing and I wanted to grow up to be like them!  I wanted it.  Let me be clear, I REALLY wanted it.  Here’s the funny part, I didn’t tell anyone, it just seemed to big.  That way, if I didn’t make it, no one were actually know I had failed.  However, I counted hours with a thoroughness that didn’t show up in the rest of my life and FAILURE become an important element of the story….fast forward to the present.

I gathered my education hours, contacted almost every client I ever coached, got letters of recommendations and documented over 3000 coaching hours.  I submitted the package and waited.  Finally, after 23 months, 3 weeks and 1 day in the examination process (that would include waiting in line for exam date, 1 failed recorded session and 1 failed live session, 1 seriously angry, self-justified, wronged me followed by soul searching, mentoring, lots of practice more waiting in line for an exam date, I finally experienced success – recorded and live session passed) I was awarded the Master Certified Coach credential from the International Coach Federation.

What I find amazing is how the process redesigned me.  The goal was so important I was willing to toss  my image of me as a coach, admit defeat and rebuild myself in a new image.  I learned a bunch about goals.  If a big goal is worth it –

  • Ego must take a back seat – you may find that you are not up to the task – YET
  • You’ll likely venture into unknown territory – it takes courage
  • Learning is more important than looking good

It was humbling – still is.  I realized that being a master coach is not something I achieved.  It is something I aspire to become…every day.  I learned and I learned.  And I am eternally grateful to all those who help me along the way.