How do the Germans and the North Americans Approach Failure?

An important distinction between doing business with Germans and doing it with North Americans is the different approach to failurein both cultures. While it is common for North Americans to perceive mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow, the Germans often consider malfunctions as weaknesses to avoid in the first place.*

During the 2006 World Cup (Soccer Championship) held in Germany, the coach of the German national team – a German soccer pro who has lived in the United States for several years – tried to familiarize both the team and the German audience with the idea that losing could be a valuable and integral part of the learning curve for that young team.  In spite of some reception among the soccer players and the audience, the coach’s tactic was mostly mocked by the media and, in the end, how well the team played appeared more important than the potential learning. *

The lesson?

For North Americans:  When things don’t go as planned on a project involving Germans, don’t be surprised when the German team members take this to heart and, instead, strive to show them some compassion. At the same time, learn from the German drive toward precision.

For Germans:  Be aware that often times, lack of success is not so much about a defect in your own value, but is part of the learning to getting better.  That means that for every no, you’re getting even closer to a yes!


-Colleen Slaughter


*Source:  Elisabeth Balcarczyk, The Universal Coach, Choice (, Volume 9, Number 1, March 2011


Dedicated to propelling desired change, Colleen Slaughter, a native of Kentucky, specializes in leadership development and executive coaching for women. She has spent over 20 years – 13 of them in Europe – working with and consulting individuals and organizations from over 35 countries. In addition to her geographical span, Colleen has driven change across an array of companies in various industries, including: professional services, pharmaceutical, telecom, automotive, high tech, consumer products, and diversified manufacturing.Capitalizing on that experience, on her MBA from the prestigious HEC Paris, and on her extensive coach training from the Newfield Network, in 2009 Colleen founded Authentic Leadership International. Through her firm, she lives out her passion of helping people in international leadership roles achieve lasting, satisfying change by aligning themselves with their true desires and talents. Colleen has dual American and Irish nationalities, shares her life with a German national, has visited over 25 countries, and speaks fluent French, with a working knowledge of Spanish and German.Colleen is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the 2011 Vice President/President-elect of the ICF – Raleigh Area Chapter. She is a volunteer Career Coach at the Triangle Chapter of Dress for Success and is a regular presenter on what true, authentic leadership looks like and how international female leaders can integrate those traits into their own professional and personal lives.


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