The Question Matters


Coaching Millennials to Fail

Posted in Entrepreneurs,Generation Y,Leadership,Next Generation Leaders by treyfinley1008 on August 17, 2010
Tags: ,

Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it?  A coach’s job is to point his/her client towards success.  A coach should be the one behind the curtain quietly allowing the client to take center stage in his/her own progress and accomplishments.  I’m suggesting a somewhat different strategy when coaching those under 30, one with long-term successes in mind.  Coaching to failure is not a proverbial “stick your leg out to trip someone” gag.  Coaching the largest generation in the history of the world is no laughing matter; it’s serious business.  I propose that the sooner a member of this generation learns what it feels like to fail, the sooner he/she will begin learning from that failure.

What better environment is there to examine failure than coaching?  Coaching is a pure-oxygen environment for breathing growth and transformation into an individual.  If an under-30 client doesn’t fail while coaching with me, I will not have done enough to coach him or her.   My client will not have learned enough.  My client will leave with a less valuable coaching experience.

My premise is simple: I believe controlled failure in a safe environment will produce an “immune” response that better prepares next generation leaders for what lies ahead.  Like dead diseases pumped into someone’s blood, controlled failure can provide a certain amount of inoculation against the fear of failure and its potential consequences.  This controlled “failure” can’t be contrived.  Coaching to fail means that the failure (1) is possible and measurable, (2) has real and potentially painful consequences, and (4) provides opportunities for multiple attempts at success.

Put another way, I’d rather my next-generation coaching client get “sick” of failure now than to “die” of failure in the future.   Over the next few days, I’ll be writing about some of the diseases our next generation faces, and the antibodies coaching must produce in order for them to  lead all of us into the next chapter of life, work, and faith.  Those who intend to lead must learn to:

  • Fight unfounded optimism with story-telling
  • Fight risk-averse behavior with opportunities for creative thinking
  • Fight inattention with critical thinking skills
  • Fight shelter-seeking behavior with “exposure” to the elements
  • Fight institutional skepticism with entrepreneurial experiments

You can probably think of other “diseases” to which those under 30 are prone.  I’d like to hear them, with one condition: you’ve got to suggest an immunization.

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4 Responses to 'Coaching Millennials to Fail'

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  1. Charlotte said,

    In a conversation over Sunday lunch, new Physics prof at ACU reported that the valedictorian & salutatorian honors are now being shared at many universities by upwards of 300 so more people “succeed”.


    • I’d be interested to know if by “succeed” they’ve set up measurable parameters that determine success. Lots of ways to do that. Simply honor the top 300 in GPA is one way, and it definitely waters down “success.” What if, instead of 300 GPA recognitions, there were 150 recognitions based on any number of standards of success? Off the top of my head, you could honor Top 10 by major, recognize excellence in writing, Top 10% GPA, etc.

      Can we be creative enough to make those 300 matter and not be obligatory?

  2. Chris said,

    This sounds like a great idea, and important part of any learning process. I wished someone had taught me how to fail and deal with failure early on. It’s a valuable teaching too. And I don’t think I’ve learned than when I’ve failed.


    • Thanks, Chris.

      I hear what you’re saying about the failure thing. I’ve got several in my back pocket that I pull out occasionally and remind myself what I learned.


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