Four Reasons People Fail

By JD Vaughn
Updated: 2/7/13

Let’s set the tone and context for this discussion. First of all, people do not go into work saying to themselves…”Let’s see, how can I disappoint my boss today.” People really WANT to deliver on our expectations of them. And when they fail, a leader is most likely at fault.

There are only four reasons people do not deliver on our expectations of them……and of those four reasons, three are the responsibility of the leader. If our people are failing, 75% of the time it is our responsibility! Slow down and explain you ask? Ok….let’s look at it in more detail.

The four reasons people do not deliver on the expectations:

1) They do not know the expectations. Often we do a very poor job of communicating our expectations. We know when we do a poor job of communicating the expectations when we find ourselves saying…”I told him (or her)” to do X….by the end of the month”. We forgot that telling is not the same as communicating. Effective communicating takes hard work, focus and energy and we often just send an email or memo. Unless we have actual written and verbal confirmation that all elements of the expectation were agreed upon, we own this failure when it occurs.

2) The second reason people do not deliver on expectations is because they do not know how to deliver on the expectations. And when people do not know how to deliver on an expectation it is probably because we recruited and hired the wrong person (we should have hired someone already trained and experienced in delivering on the expectations in this environment) or we failed to provide the necessary training for the staff member to be equipped to deliver on the expectation. And as effective leaders, we own this failure as well.

3) The third reason people do not deliver on our expectations; roadblocks. There is something or many somethings in the way preventing the team member from delivering the expectations. Just because our financial plan required our sales organization deliver an annualized growth rate (CAGR) of 45% a year does not mean it was achievable in the current market with the resources we have available. If there are roadblocks in the way of delivering on the expectations then our leadership may have been required to help remove the roadblocks so the expectations could be realized. Perhaps our leadership was required to secure the necessary resources, and/or help remove other roadblocks that prevented our team member from delivering on the expectations.

And finally…

4) The fourth reason people do not deliver on the expectations; they do not want to deliver on the expectation. Sometimes our people, for whatever reason choose not to deliver on the expectations. Unfortunately, most of us assume this is the primary reason people fail to deliver on the expectations. But again I ask, how many people do you really believe go into work in the morning saying to themselves; “I want to disappoint my boss today.” They disappoint us because we failed to provide the communications and leadership necessary to help them succeed.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to serve our constituencies (stockholders, investors, management team, and employees …all stakeholders) by anticipating and mitigating the risks that might keep us from achieving and delivering on the expectations our constituencies have for us.

We can do this most effectively when we know what gets in the way of our people delivering on the expectations. And if we know in advance what might get in the way, (we know there are four reasons people do not deliver on the expectations) we become leaders by serving our staff and making certain that 75% of the reasons for their potential failure are always addressed. When we remove these roadblocks to success, and help our people win, we become the leaders they will choose to follow. And that is fundamental to our future success.

J D Vaughn, founder and principal at J D Vaughn Consulting, is an entrepreneur, writer, author, and former radio talk show host for, Making It Work, a radio talk show about making work actually work for employees and employers alike. He began his writing career writing case studies for the Harvard School of Business, and is the author of the book God Letters. He is also a regular contributor to the telecom industry publication, TeleSpan. J D Vaughn is also the founder and principal of a management consulting firm that specializes in accelerating business development and sales growth for high tech companies. His firm, J D Vaughn Consulting, is unique in the high tech sales growth consulting arena as they are known for actually tying a significant portion of their fees to results and execution of best sales practices and revenue growth. Concurrently, they have fund raising arm and a PPM practice that offers startup or restart companies a unique, proactive and controlled method for raising and sustaining investors in the redefined capital marketplace. He can be reached at or 678-644-7034.

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