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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Coaching Moment: How to Turn Any Failure into an Opportunity

How to Turn Any Failure into an Opportunity (1)

Being a great coach and developer of people is a natural talent, and those gifted with these abilities can take people far. Seeing how things CAN happen or improve motivates others to feel the same, especially in the event of a failure.

We all make mistakes and have disappointments; it's what we do with that lesson that makes a difference.

There are a few things that the best coaches do when failure occurs on their team that may also help you find success.

The best coaching is…

  • In the moment
  • Specific
  • Clear on next steps
  • Encouraging

Timing is Everything

Providing immediate feedback is important. Don’t wait until a review or weekly meeting to bring up something from the past. When something either good or bad happens, look at it as a perfect opportunity for a coaching moment.

Although you may be agitated by a failure, it is important that others don’t see or feel that from you. Be mindful of this, and make sure you take an optimistic approach to the conversation. Before you begin to coach on a negative, consider a few positives, too.

Positive Feedback Examples (And a Few Negative Ones Too)

It is important to remember that the average person needs a 5:1 ratio of positive feedback to constructive criticism. That means that if, over time, you have provided them with a lot of positive feedback, they will be much more open to feedback that feels more negative to them. This does not mean that every time you must give someone constructive criticism, you should sandwich it in between other positive comments to create that 5:1 ratio. This ratio should just be achieved over time.

Consider asking if they have a few minutes to talk about how something went. This will allow them to know that feedback is coming, and it takes away the feeling of surprise or threat. The more trust you have with someone, the easier it is to have this conversation but be mindful that no one enjoys criticism.

Act kindly, but act quickly.

The More Details, The Better

It can be very difficult for a person to review their performance and identify exactly what they did well. That is why coaches will record practices and games and then play the film back during a coaching session.

Seeing yourself on film allows you to better understand exactly what you did right – or wrong – and take steps to repeat or change those behaviors in the future. Our jobs are not as conducive to that, so the next best thing is painting a picture in their mind by describing exactly what they saw or heard.

Be specific about what you feel could be improved while positioning it in a way that helps them, not criticizing them. You may have a different style than the person you are speaking with, so be mindful of that and ask yourself how they will respond to what you are sharing.

Here’s What Effective Sales Coaching Looks Like Today

You may ask, “How do you feel this went?” “What do you feel went well and you would do again?” “What do you feel could be better next time?”

Consider this cadence:

  • I really like that you…
  • And that you…
  • It may have gone better if you…
  • Knowing you are so good at XYZ, I wish I had seen…
  • What do you think would happen if you tried ….

Taking this approach allows you to coach while not taking the air out of someone’s sails. The goal is improvement, not cutting someone down. This is your opportunity to turn a negative into a positive experience.

Expectations Matter

Make sure you provide clear next steps and expectations. Wording your statement in a way that is encouraging while expectant. This is your opportunity to help the individual take the feedback you provided and allow them to make it actionable.

You will want to hear them share what they will do in the future to ensure you are both on the same page. Position it this way, “What are your next steps to ensure this change occurs in the future?”

Have realistic expectations of what they can or can’t do by understanding their natural talents and working around their weaknesses. They are not YOU, so don’t expect them to answer, react, or respond as you would.

Sales Leaders' Top Challenges— Setting Clear Expectations

Celebrate Progress

The best coaches observe improved performance and cheer those actions to encourage positive behaviors. Noticing that a person is cognizant of making changes, even small ones, truly matters. The best way to see positive behavior in others is to celebrate the progress they make. This allows them to know they are on the correct path and can empower them as well.

Don’t let things go unnoticed. Make sure to share the improvements you see. Follow the same cadence discussed above:

  • I’ve noticed you have…
  • I really like that you…
  • And that you…

Encouraging positive behavior breeds positive behavior.


Failure happens to the best of us. How you handle that failure matters.

Keeping a positive mindset when coaching others is important. By doing this, you help them believe good things can happen after failure.

Be a coach who genuinely wants to help others grow and thrive, and you will see people propel forward in the future. Make a habit of coaching in the moment, be specific in what you see and what the next steps should be, and consistently celebrate positive changes along the way.

Be the coach others want to have around when things are not going the way they projected. Failures happen to us all; it is what we do with them that helps us improve and grow.

360 Executive Strength Coaching

Topics: employee development 360 coaching