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  • Writer's pictureSamuel Monnie

How to succeed from failure…. Can I tell you a story?

We love to talk about our successes, but on reflection, many of our greatest lessons come from failure and that's why you need to tell your failure stories!

Okay, before you click away - I know that when things go wrong it often comes with a host of negative feelings and emotions. Yet with grace, empathy, and compassion your mindset can shift to a place of learning and growth (and we talk about that often in the Across The Pond Marketing Transformed podcast).

I know, that's easier said than done, because throughout my career I've contributed to countless meetings, team updates, town halls, client calls, and business reviews where only good things are mentioned despite the dire reality of the situation such as:

  • Brand positioning is ineffective compared to competitors (especially challenger brands & start-ups)

  • Can't get approvals or budget required to be effective

  • Misunderstanding customer needs, developing & launching new products that fail

  • Sales don't use most materials that marketers provide

  • Misalignment between marketing & agencies - creates rework, adds time & increases costs

I say all this because I can relate to this Harvard Business Review article called Storytelling Can Make or Break Your Leadership, but hold on, before you read that stay here and ….)

Let me tell you a story of a low point in my career

Picture the scene, I've just moved to Philadelphia and started a new job. I'm anticipating great things, looking to hit the ground running, with absolute confidence in making an immediate impact by showing why I was the right hire. So of course, humility was taking a back seat and within days of becoming the Head of Marketing Capability at Campbell Soup of course I fell flat on my face!

Failure in 10 seconds!

It only took a 10-second phone call with the President of a billion-dollar business division based in California before I screwed up in a major way. Yes, my first phone call to this leader only took ten seconds because his ONLY words to me were “Sam, I’m not interested in bureaucratic headquarter training so I’m not sure there’s much for us to talk about……”.

I hung up the call (although technically he did, LOL)

thinking “what the f@*! just happened?”

It was a humbling moment. And as my mind replayed what happened over and over and over again, the anger and frustration slowly shifted to grace, empathy, and compassion. To a place of realization that I first had to truly connect on a deeper level with that president and people in their division before trying to (in my eyes) “fix” their marketing capability deficiencies and skill gaps. I had to then understand that leader’s business, and have a real understanding of the culture. I had to do the hard work of inspiring them to opt into my global marketing capability program! I hadn’t earned the right to tell them what to do.

Seriously, be vulnerable and tell your failure story

So I then had to move from thoughts to action - to be candid about my misstep. Surprisingly, the more people I told about my now infamous 10-second phone call the more it opened doors. I realized that my vulnerability enabled people to listen to my failure story with empathy. And the more I listened to them, and better understood their needs - the more they leaned into collaborating and partnering with me (and Andrew Watson + the wonderful Oxford SM team). As my communication improved my influence grew through the mutual investment of time into co-creating and customizing the training to fit their teams' needs.

By repeating this approach in Canada, Australia, LATAM, Asia, and other divisions - momentum grew as more and more leaders opted in, and word of mouth spread to the leader that had said: “no bureaucratic headquarter training”. (fun fact: while our workshops globally achieved an impressive Net Promoter score of 74, the result from the California division scored higher with NPS = 79!!)

Looking back

I realize that a 10-second initial phone call was a gift! Because it was a humbling reminder that storytelling is a very human way to communicate your successes AND failures.

Learning to connect with people, understand, and inspire them to ‘opt-in’ to your ideas through stories is just being human. And when you make a mistake and stumble, sharing that story of failure can gift you insights that propel you to better outcomes.

Click on the player above to listen to the show and hear more about the movement to be more human in marketing, and the value of using stories in the season 5 episode co-hosted by Chris Lawson and featuring Minter Dial called Storytelling & Serendipity.

Learn how to Think, Listen & Speak through Storytelling

I teach Communication through Storytelling and can help you prepare for critical business conversations and situations (eg. brand positioning, customer insights, new product development) through coaching, workshops, training, and keynotes. Contact: to schedule a free 20-minute consultation.

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While you’re here check out our FREE podcast archive

  • Season one essentials of marketing digital transformation, whether you're that rising star entrepreneur, experienced professional.

  • Season Two, getting deeper into marketing transformation. What are the questions that you've got? And we answer those for growth and success.

  • Season Three modern marketers, looking at the changing dynamics of marketing and business strategy and what you need to learn, unlearn and relearn in a post COVID world.

  • Season four - Agile Marketing Action Plan. We give you the cornerstones, the skills, the mindsets, and then the behaviors for modern marketers. So you can actually deliver on modern marketing. The cornerstones are things like the vision and mission, the brand-building insight and playbook. The go-to skills, the mindsets of growth, transformation mindset, and then the leadership behaviors that are still ever relevant.

  • Season Five the Marketing Transformed playlist - where you get an interview episode with a special guest, accompanied by a bonus AfterCast™ episode. In the AfterCast™ episode, you’ll get a recap, reflection, and an extended remix of topics that deserved more attention.


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