Fear of Failure: Performance Standards

Tino MantellaBy Tino Mantella

TLG President & CEO This article is adapted from Tino’s For What It’s Worth Video Series

Fear of failure can be the enemy of innovation. Fear of failure can be the enemy of change. Performance standards can be the enemy of both innovation and change. And I’ve always been a believer in performance standards. I guess personally, through my career, I have probably overweighed the opportunity to be innovative versus worrying about failing. I think that is a good course. I’ve also been a big believer in performance standards. So, performance standards are a double-edged sword.


I’ve worked with companies all throughout my career when I’ve been the CEO where I’ve established tight performance standards. We were able to change them but also, people were looking to see if they could achieve those targets. And sometimes when you overweight the idea of achieving the targets and performance standards, and you don’t really have the flexibility to change them, it gives your employees the message that these are the things that count, these are the things that matter.

If you’re thinking about things like how it ties into results and how it might tie into having the opportunity to get raises and to go to the next level, then you have this conflict where you want people to think outside the box. You want people to make changes but they’re also looking at those standards. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this because it is an interesting topic.


Flexibility and Innovation

A lot of companies are moving away from more detailed performance standards. I still like them, but I must think about being flexible enough where it gives people the opportunity to innovate. For me it was not really an issue because I didn’t mind going out there and probably failing if I needed to fail to do things. And in every company, I’ve worked with, we’ve done different things. In the YMCA, we were one of the first ones to build a full theater.

Here at the Turknett Leadership Group, we’re trying a number of things. We started something called Chief Space with a partner. This is program specifically for chiefs of staff. We’re doing IDEA, which is a DEI program certification. We’re doing a number of things, but we also have done a number of things that didn’t quite work. But it’s all about I think trying to be better, trying to improve.

It’s good to have some type of performance measurement but don’t do it to the detriment of people feeling like they can innovate. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this for what it’s worth.



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