Karin’s Leadership Articles

So much is written about learning from failure, but much less of failing from success.

This weekend, I had the extraordinary opportunity to speak and attend the National Speakers Association’s Business Accelerator Lab. It was inspiring to get to know Nido Quebein, President of High Point University, along with his concept of Productive Failures and Unproductive Success. Success can slow us down in other areas as well.

5 Ways Success is Holding You Back

“Success doesn’t come to you; you must go to it. The trail is well-traveled and well-marked. If you want to walk it, you can.” -Nido Quebein

1. You Don’t Take the Time to Understand It

It’s easy to celebrate and move on, instead of taking the time to truly dissect the specific elements that led to that success. Nido explains that success is often wasted, when we miss the opportunity to learn from it. When you succeed at something big,  was it due to the market, the price, the positioning, the long hours, the social media campaign, the right leadership, the right employees? If you don’t slow down to truly understand what worked, you’re much less likely to succeed in the next endeavor. Failure is much more likely to give us the pause needed to think, regroup, and improve.

2. You Believe Your Own PR

I see this happen with leaders at all levels. People sing their praises and they start humming along. Of course your leadership bio makes you sound like a rock star. Never forget that it’s only one side of the story.

3. You Stop Asking for Feedback

When the fist bumps are flying it’s easy to get caught up in the glory. Make it easy for people to share their insights. First say “Thank you,” and then ask for specifics. “Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed my presentation. What part of it resonated the most? Which parts do you think I should change?” “I’m glad you like the idea, but all ideas can be improved. What am I not considering here? Where are the holes?”

4. You Over-Emphasize Your Own Contribution

I’m amazed at how many leaders have the audacity to attribute the team’s success to their leadership. Hopefully, you had something to do with it. But you’d better figure out what everyone did behind the scenes to make it happen, including your peers. Overlooking their specific contribution will make them less likely to follow you as enthusiastically the next time. And, if you don’t know just what they did, you won’t know what to do again.

5. You Lose Ambition

Don’t get distracted by your one-hit wonder. It’s easy to think you can never top your last big success. Many don’t. Others do. Remain confident that there’s more success where that came from and go for it. Elizabeth Gilbert wrestles with this challenge in her TED talk:  Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating.

Learn to maximize the power of sucessful success and your world will change exponentially.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Steve Borek

    Create extraordinary goals for bigger success. Most people’s goals are not near big enough.

    • Bruce Harpham

      Steve, I’m inclined to agree with you about setting larger goals. Can you share an example of how you (or someone you advised) went from a small to an extraordinary goal?

      • Karin Hurt

        I agree. I think it feels safer to play the game you know you can win. I’m always setting audacious goals. My favorite example of challenging a team to think bigger is when I was in Verizon and the team throught selling to small businesses from the stores was too tough. My boss set a stretch goal for me and told me if we got there I could have the additional resources I asked for. We got to that point quickly and then soon doubled it. Trying to prove someone wrong can be a big motivating factor 😉

  2. Sharon Gilmour-Glover

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks so much for writing about this. It’s essential to stop, reflect and learn from success and most of us don’t do that. So many times over the years clients have looked at me like I had 3 heads when I suggested that is a good use of time. I get it because I feel the drive to really maximise on success too but I think learning from success is even more essential than learning from failure (which is really important).

    We all know that we’re going to come up against obstacles no matter how many successes we have. Taking the time to deeply reflect on all of the elements that contributed to success, increases our toolbox. It also increases our resilience.

    I think this is especially important now. We are living through volatile, uncertain times. Things are always in flux, changing so quickly and cause and effect are likely not clear. Having a vast store of success stories gives us so many more options when we face something unanticipated and challenging.

    • Karin Hurt

      Sharon, thanks so much for you in-depth response and examples.

  3. Chery Gegelman

    Great post Karin! I got really caught up in your first point. Maybe because I just had a conversation with someone about the importance of pausing after success. (Different reasons, different words – but apparently the lesson of the day!)

    I see great wisdom in your advice. Thank you!

    • Karin Hurt

      Chery, I love it when the stars align. Thanks so much.

  4. Bruce Harpham

    “Nido explains that success is often wasted, when we miss the opportunity to learn from it.”

    An interesting observation. Sorting out the cause of a success is often challenging, especially when there are a lot of actors involved (i.e. any product launch or interaction with the public).

    • Karin Hurt

      Bruce, I agree it’s often difficult to isolate the variables, but worth it to try.

  5. Terri Klass

    Terrific post, Karin and the point that resonates with me is number 4-You Over-Emphasize Your Own Contribution. In working with leaders I often hear how overly important they feel their ideas are at the expense of listening to others. That attitude can topple a team and downgrade innovation.

    Thanks Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

  6. LaRae Quy

    Great list, Karin!

    I agree that we can learn a lot from our success. It’s so important to go back and excavate the significance of our own stories and experiences. Whether it’s a failure or a success, we should be able to thin-slice our behavior, emotions, and attitudes so we know how to replicate them (or not) in the future!

    • Karin Hurt

      Larae, I love the image of “thin-slicing” our behavior to examine it. Thank you!

  7. Paul LaRue

    Like this post, Karin! Nothing begets success like success, and nothing derails it faster as well. You’ve covered some key behaviors here; bottom line is, achieve and reboot. Thanks for a great post!

    • Karin Hurt

      Paul, Thanks so much. “Achieve and reboot.” Amen.

  8. Meg Rulli

    Awesome post Karin – I love this quote about success… it’s so true: “The trail is well-traveled and well-marked”

    • Karin Hurt

      Meg thanks so very much for your comment. I do hope you will stop back again.

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