A Structure for Trial and Error

Our goal with this exercise is to recognize and acknowledge the frustration of a behavior that does not produce the results we want and then use the learning process to modify or replace that behavior. With enough practice, this exercise becomes an ongoing strategy to decrease the discomfort of trial and error and increase our effectiveness at behavioral change. Over time, this builds our leadership practice through small improvements.


The first step is to recognize when we feel frustration.

  • When do you feel the emotion of frustration?

  • When is the last time, or when does it happen frequently?

  • What aspect of this situation is frustrating?


The next step is to identify what we want to achieve in the interaction.


  • Using the definition of leadership as a model, what is your goal or desired outcome?

  • Which function(s) of leadership do you want to primarily affect in this interaction?

  • Which aspect(s) of this function will be different after the interaction?


The final step is to go through the learning cycle to find a behavioral change that may accomplish our goal. The questions below are a shortened version for use as a mental tool, rather than a more comprehensive process.


  • What are the facts of the interaction? What behaviors and responses did each of the participants perform?

  • How does this interaction reflect previous interactions? What does this tell you about the other participants’ relationships and understanding of vision?

  • What would a better or more productive outcome look like? What action or relationship would the other participants’ demonstrate?

  • Which of your behaviors will you change, and what are the steps of the new behavior? Is there a specific trigger for this behavior? How will you see that the behavior has achieved the desired effect?