Friday, May 27, 2011

Rei Inamoto - a real-time example of the humanness of failure

AKQA Chief Creative Officer Rei Inamoto is featured in this entry from the Berghs Exhibition 2011 video series on fear of failure.

My favorite moment: about a minute in, when something unexpected occurs that both underlines Imamoto's words and provides a delightful bit of humor.

Rei Inamoto – on the fear of failure. from Berghs' Exhibition '11 on Vimeo.

More information on Sweden's Berghs College of Communication Exhibition here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Charlie Crystle audio story - how not to break up with a business partner

This story is from Charlie Crystle, who founded Chilisoft, a web infrastructure provider which in 1999 was sold to Cobalt Networks for $70 million. He and two partners later started Mission Research, which offers low-cost business software to support nonprofits.

His new venture is, a social search site. You can sign up for the private beta of Jawaya here.

In this story, Charlie describes the birth of the company that eventually became Chilisoft, and talks about the wrong way to end a business partnership.

Charlie Crystle - how not to end a business partnership (3:31)

Designer Milton Glaser says that failures are central to personal development

Designer Milton Glaser is featured in the video series from Berghs College of Communication's 2011 Exhibition. It's really an amazing talk that you must watch in full.

Says Glaser, "Understanding development comes from failure. People begin to get better when they fail. They move towards failure, they discover something as a result of failing. They fail again; they discover something else. They fail again; they discover something else. So, the model for personal development is antithetical to the model for professional success [which is based on repeated demonstration of expertise]."

And: "The real embarrassment about failure is that you learn you are not as good as you thought you were." Nevertheless, "you must embrace failure, you must admit what is, you must find out what you're capable of doing, and what you're not capable of doing."

Milton Glaser – on the fear of failure. from Berghs' Exhibition '11 on Vimeo.

More information on the Berghs Exhibition here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From "Better Under Pressure," Jeremy's Story: Lacking a sense of agency

Another great story from Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others. This one is about "Jeremy," a high potential executive who was struggling in a stretch role. Menkes uses the term "sense of agency" to describe taking personal accountability and responsibility for issues. He defines it in the book this way:

Sense of agency...refers to the degree to which people attribute their circumstances and the outcomes they experience to being within their own control.

This would be the opposite approach of the villain Tom Chaney (previously discussed in this post) in "True Grit," whose catchphrase is, "Everything is against me."

Here's Jeremy's story:

Jeremy was being groomed for possible promotion to the CEO role. His past success in commercializing products and executing their successful launch had dramatically raised his profile in the company. He had come to be seen as a possible successor to the CEO, and to further stretch him, the company placed him in charge of one of its underperforming divisions. When I met Jeremy, he had been in this new role for two years, and for the first time in his career, he was struggling to delivery. Many around the company had begun to question whether Jeremy had been promoted over his head, and he was feeling tremendous mounting pressure to show dramatic improvements in the division soon or be replaced.

.... An in-depth look at his track record, feedback from colleagues, and direct interviews with Jeremy himself revealed that his exceptional marketing talents and intense professional drive had led to an extraordinary level of success very early. But when he had been given a leadership position of dramatically increased scope, his tenure became marked with missteps. This is very normal, as leaders adjusting to a significant increase in responsibility invariably make many mistakes. Those who ultimately excel recognize and own these missteps quickly and use the experiences to grow into their positions of elevated authority and increased complexity. But for this learning curve to occur, it is absolutely crucial that they accept their role in these mistakes. If they have a low sense of agency, they cannot, and will fail.

As I got to know Jeremy, it became clear that the exceptional qualities that led to his raid ascent in the compnay were indeed impressive. He had a keen sense of market conditions and consumer needs and a knack for connecting the dots in a way that revealed dramatic new market opportunities. These high-profile successes earned him an expansive, well-deserved reputation in the compnay. But thus far, he had been thriving within divisions that already had well-established world-cleass operations in place. In Jeremy's new position, he was being asked for the first time to turn a failing team into a strong one. It was an essential test if he was going to be a serious candidate for CEO, and it was one that exposed Jeremy's Achilles heel. 
When I asked Jeremy why he had missed his units's earning targets every quarter for two years, he immediately deflected responsibility for this critical problem. "This place was a mess when I got here," he said. "I'm doing everything possible to get this thing turned around quickly, but the people here expect miracles. I need more time." Jeremy went on to say he felt he was being judged unfairly by colleagues, that people saw him as a threat and were just waiting for him to fail. "They need to help make me successful, not criticize." 
When pushed, Jeremy acknowledged that at least some of his colleagues seemed sincere in wanting him to be successful. But he still blamed his incompetent team for most of the problem. He fired some of those people, but then he found their replacements - people whom he had hired himself - "incompetent" as well.... 
Jeremy laid the blame for his division's poor performance on others - even those he himself had fired - showing a very low sense of agency, which is what I explained to him in our feedback session. Until he was able to take ownership of his situation and the central role he played in bringing it about, I told him, he was never going to gain from the critical learning opportunity that had been handed to him with this job. No one was expecting him to flawlessly turn around a situation that was indeed challenging, but Jeremy's problem was that he was showing no upward trajectory that could give his colleagues the confidence that he was learning from his mistakes and growing into the job.

pp. 91-93

Excerpted from "Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others" by Justin Menkes. (c) 2011 Esaress Holding, Limited.

Ad copywriter Luke Sullivan faces down the fear of failure

Possibly the wackiest of the videos in the series from Berghs College of Communication's 2011 Exhibition. Luke Sullivan is a longtime copywriter, the head of the advertising program at Savannah College of Art & Design, and the author of "Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Advertising."

In this video, Sullivan stares down (metaphorically) a living, breathing incarnation of fear - or, at least, a fear that can talk on the phone.

Luke Sullivan – on the fear of failure. from Berghs' Exhibition '11 on Vimeo.

More information on the Berghs Exhibition here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Nike Sustainability VP Hannah Jones: how a crisis resulted in sustainable design leadership

One of the videos in the series from Berghs College of Communication's 2011 Exhibition. This video is by Nike VP, Sustainable Business and Innovation, Hannah Jones. She combines some lessons on failure with an interesting story of what Nike confronted when they didn't pay attention to NGO complaints about the factories where Nike products were made.

Hannah Jones – on the fear of failure. from Berghs' Exhibition '11 on Vimeo.

More information on the Berghs Exhibition here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

From Fred Wilson: a visible reminder of a past mistake

This was originally posted on Fred's AVC blog on May 24, 2011:

Longtime readers know that I'm a bit obsessed with worthless stock certificates. I like to keep them around and displayed so that I see them on a regular basis. They are a reminder that we make mistakes in the venture business. I think it's a good idea to remind yourself on a regular basis (particularly when markets are like they are now), that everything you touch doesn't turn to gold.
We are moving our offices upstairs to a new office and we've spent a fair bit of time this week cleaning out old files. I came across a big stack of worthless stock certificates from the Flatiron Partners portfolio and thought I'd share one of them with all of you.
Kozmo stock cert 
Kozmo was a decent idea that actually worked in NYC. But in the mania that existed in 1999, the company raised hundreds of millions and went on a spree opening up something like 18-20 cities. That expansion was largely unsuccessful and the result was that the company went under. We lost our entire investment as did all the other investors.
On a week when we are celebrating lots of good news in the Internet world, I think its useful to also remember what didn't work and why so we don't repeat those mistakes.

Some of what Fred is referencing in "good news in the Internet world" would include LinkedIn's IPO, which rose 80% above the offering price on its first day of trading.

Here's some more info on if you're interested.

Photographer Sarah Moon on the fear of failure coming from "one's own demand"

One of the videos in the series from Berghs College of Communication's 2011 Exhibition. This video features Paris-based photographer Sarah Moon.

Sarah Moon – on the fear of failure. from Berghs' Exhibition '11 on Vimeo.

More information on the Berghs Exhibition here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer realizes how he enabled a conflict between subordinates

Another snippet from the new book "Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others" by Justin Menkes. In an interview, Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer discusses how focusing on his role in enabling a conflict between two subordinates, rather than ordering them to work it out themselves, helped them all get the problem solved.

Sharer's insistence throughout our conversation that his success was far from preordained reveals his acute awareness of actual circumstances. His openness to the very real possibilities that events could have unfolded unfavorably throughout his life is an essential part of his insistence of a clear-eyed view of his life choices. This kind of realism is at the heart of the adaptive capacity leaders need to have: to authentically believe in the value of self-improvement, leaders must also authentically embrace how their past imperfections had very real, and sometimes costly, consequences.

For example, Sharer described how two of his best people almost blew up over tension with each other, and how he was able to claim his own role in the issue. "I had assigned my two key guys to resolve a problem," he told me. "I just said,'Would you guys please figure this out?' They didn't have a shared reality, and it wasn't clear who was supposed to do what. Soon their differences of opinion were starting to cascade down. It was really tearing the company apart."

Once it finally dawned on him that he might have had a role in the conflict from the beginning, he asked himself honestly what part of it he owned, and then he set things right. "I came up with a list about that long" - he spread his arms wide - "of my part of the problem. And when I briefed them the next Monday, I said, 'Look, guys, before I tell you what's gone wrong and what we need to do, let me tell you what I haven't done.' That cleared the air, and then we found a way to fix things. In fact, we got stronger as a team because of going through this fire together."

pp. 71-72

Excerpted from "Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others" by Justin Menkes. (c) 2011 Esaress Holding, Limited.

"What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid of Failure?" from Berghs School of Communication

A college in Stockholm, Berghs offers education in public relations, advertising, design, and other communications fields. Berghs' wonderful 2011 Exhibition focuses on the fear of failure, and includes a wonderful video series featuring leading designers, writers and academics discussing this theme. We'll feature these videos for the next couple of weeks.

If you happen to be in Stockholm at the end of May, here's information about the public exhibition.

[Hat tip to Craig Collins for pointing out this FastCoDesign post on the exhibition.]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Charlie Crystle audio story - investing time in someone else's dream

This story is from Charlie Crystle, who founded Chilisoft, a web infrastructure provider which in 1999 was sold to Cobalt Networks for $70 million. He and two partners later started Mission Research, which offers low-cost business software to support nonprofits.

His new venture is, a social search site. You can sign up for the private beta of Jawaya here.

Charlie discusses working crazy hours for someone else, and how that experience prompted him to first go into business for himself.

Charlie Crystle - investing in someone else's dream (1:56)


It started out as Intuitive Computer Solutions. I started it right after I left the music industry. I was so frustrated with my record company and decided I wasn't going to record for them any more. And I got hired by a little computer company, a little computer store, and ended up not getting paid by them, and learning a lot about building computers, sort of on the fly. I was trained, half-trained, in a day or so. And then I had to deal with... The guy left! He left the store, for months.

I was trying to serve customers, didn't know what I was doing. So I studied. All the time. Like all night. Bought "Upgrading and Repairing PCs," a bunch of other books. Really learned how computers work from the ground up. And, you know, I made this mistake of putting a huge investment into someone else's dream. You learn a lot through that, in some ways, but within a couple of months I said, this blows, and I'm not getting paid. So I'm going to start my own thing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leadership requires "an absence of shame around personal failures and imperfections"

From the terrific new book "Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others" by Justin Menkes. Here he discusses the need for leaders to show "realistic optimism" and "face actual circumstances" head on:

When you as a leader possesses the kind of humility that enables your awareness of true circumstances, you can face all kinds of stimuli, from negative personal feedback to challenging market fluctuations to employees' or customers' emotional reactions, without experiencing personal disruption. This utter absence of shame around your miscalculations or outright failures is the critical differentiator of someone acutely in touch with actual circumstances and someone who is not.

p. 63

Excerpted from "Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others" by Justin Menkes. (c) 2011 Esaress Holding, Limited.

Ultra-competitive mindset leads to acquisition mistakes

Deepak Malhotra (co-author of "Negotiation Genius," one of 2007's top 5 books) and colleagues have once again dived into the psychology of negotiators and dealmakers in May's Harvard Business Review ("When Winning is Everything").

They find that certain factors present in many deals can drive irrational thinking and, ultimately, overpaying for acquisitions. The factors are:

  1. Rivalry - animosity toward a competitive rival for an acquisition, say, can create a "win at all costs" mentality.
  2. Time Pressure - racing to meet a stated or internal deadline can lead to accepting a poor deal
  3. The Spotlight - if people are watching--coworkers or the public--a dealmaker may act less rationally than if the spotlight were off.

Malhotra et al write: "Rivalry, time pressure and a bright spotlight can each fuel competitive arousal. Collectively, they can lead to decision disasters." They point to the Boston Scientific acquisition of Guidant and Viacom's purchase of Paramount as two costly examples of this type.

What to do? As in "Negotiation Genius," Malhotra urges dealmakers, first of all, to be aware that these factors exist. Mere awareness of a feeling of time pressure is a tool to prompt reflection: "Is there a reason this has to be done this week?" Almost always, the answer is no. The world won't end if the deal is delayed.

As for rivalry and the spotlight, companies can put approaches in place to manage them. Often, it means spreading the responsibility among teams of dealmakers rather than allowing individuals to shoulder the entire burden. [Microsoft might have managed 2008's Yahoo engagement better if it had not allowed it to become Steve Ballmer's deal. The jury will be out for a while, of course, on the Skype acquisition.]

Malhotra and his colleagues are probing into new and important territory in business research. By bringing behavioral economics and psychology into the forefront of dealmaking and negotiation, they are providing a valuable service to businesspeople everywhere.

Most refreshingly, their focus on the costs of dealmakers' irrationality and aggression is a welcome antidote to the lionizing of ultracompetitive CEOs and moguls elsewhere in the business press.

(Photo: a still from the infamous Steve Ballmer monkey dance)

Related posts:
"The Best Negotating Book I've Ever Read"

Monday, May 16, 2011

Megamind triumphs by learning from his mistakes

We watched "Megamind" last night and I was delightfully surprised by an exchange between Megamind, the villain-turned-hero, and Titan, the hero-turned-villain (you'll have to see the movie to make sense of that, I think):

[Titan has just thrown Megamind into a wall and is about to finish him off.]

TITAN: No matter what side you're on, you're always the loser.

MEGAMIND: There's a benefit to losing. You get to learn from your mistakes.

[MM proceeds to wriggle out of the tight spot and turn the tables on Titan, save the city, and get the girl.]

Makers of animated films seem to have this learning from mistakes thing down pat - see the quote from "Meet the Robinsons" at the margin to the right.

And here's the Megamind trailer if you're curious:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What a "broken child" reminds us about life

There's an amazing exchange from Fresh Air when Teri Gross interviews Ian Brown, author of "The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son," a memoir about life with his 15-year old son Walker, who suffers from a rare and severely disabling condition called cardiofaciocutaneous (CFC) syndrome.

Brown is discussing a quote from his wife imagining what the world would be like without people like Walker, when Teri Gross interrupts:

What sort of a world would it be without Walkers? A world where there are only sort of Masters of the Universe...would be like Sparta.

Teri Gross:
Could we just stop here? I'm not a Master of the Universe. You know, I'm not broken, physiologically broken, like your boy. But I'm hardly a Master of the Universe. I think most of us are not Masters of the Universe. We're all broken in our own special ways. So it's not like we're perfected people and we need constant reminders of imperfection. I'm not arguing for abortion here, I'm just saying...we're not a population of perfection.

No, no, absolutely not... although, you know, the imperative to know what to do, to have the answer, to...have the solution. I think that's a very strong imperative. And Walker is...he's more than a reminder of imperfection. Gradually, I've begun to realize, he is a way of...not the only way of being, but he's an alternate way of being. Because you can't be successful with Walker. You can't "get it done." You can't "just do it," as the ad says. You have to actually just be with him

I remember precisely where I was when I heard this: on Forster St., heading over the Harvey Taylor Bridge taking my son home from school. As I listened, I was reminded of something very current and yet age-old. An obsession with "winning." What Brown is saying means this to me: Walker is important and his life is meaningful because he presents us a situation that is not winnable. It just is. The work involved with raising and caring for Walker will not end in triumph. It will persist, day by day, for as long as it lasts. That is its limitation and, in the end, its beauty.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Royal Little: getting sweet-talked out of $830,000

Another story from Textron founder Royal Little (1896-1989), author of "How to Lose $100,000,000 and Other Valuable Advice." In spite of his wealth of mistake stories, Little was one of the most successful US businessmen of the mid-1900s.

In this story, he recalls a mistake he made involving his investment company, Narragansett Capital.

Aquarius was a company that a group of investors financed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They...had a wonderful-sounding plan to convert the job shop printing plant that they had taken over into a highly sophisticated operation that would do quality color work for large industrial users throughout the Soluthwest.

In addition, the states of New Mexico and Arizona, which had to go as far as San Francisco or Chicago to get good color reproduction work for all their tourist folders and other promotional materials, were excellent prospects. This type of business ran into very substantial volume and we were told that once the plant was equipped with new machinery bought with our money, there would be no question about their getting continuing orders from the contacts they had made in the area.

The principal investor, who was president of the company, was really a spellbinder in his presentation. I personally went out to New Mexico to see the plant, which had excellent floor space and was well located, and met the group of key personnel that had been assembled, some of whom had experience in this type of operation, in other parts of the country. I remember saying to the promoted, "How in the world do you get a group of people who have had wide experience to work for you for lower salaries than they were getting in Chicago or New York?" He said, "Roy, this is a wonderful part of the world to live in. These people will work out here for two-thirds of the pay they were getting in other parts of the country. We have a great opportunity to build a most important printing business here and all of this group have put up some money to show their confidence in the venture. I can assure you, Roy, that this could be one of the finest investments that Narragansett ever made."

When this investment was brought to the board for consideration, my son, who had met the principal and thought he was too much of a promoter, tried to persuade me to take it easy and not rush the board into approving this transaction. In my usual manner (once I was sold on something, I insisted on getting the board to act on it that day), without having any consultant like Arthur D. Little, Inc., investigate the situation and check with the states of Arizona and New Mexico to see if, in fact, they were prepared to give millions of dollars in printing business to this new company, I rushed ahead. Believe it or not, without further investigation we made a total investment of $830,000....

Within one year, the venture went broke and Narragansett took a complete loss.

ADVICE: don't let a super salesman con you into making an investment. This company was formed and named at the height of popularity of the musical "Hair." Just the fact that someone would name his company after the principal musical hit of that show should have been warning enough.

[pp. 224-225]

Excerpted from How to Lose $100,000,000 and Other Valuable Advice, by Royal Little, (c) 1979 by Royal Little and the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Great advice on keeping a work diary

HBS professor Teresa Amabile, who has done some great writing on creativity at work, and co-author Steven Kramer have posted "Four Reasons to Keep a Work Diary" on

The theme is similar to that of "To learn, keep and review a mistake log," but Amabile & Kramer's post is even better.

First of all, it establishes journaling as a daily ritual, as opposed to something you do when it seems appropriate to. As such, there's a better chance that you'll do it regularly, and maintain it. In a busy work life, there's just not much opportunity to catch yourself and say, "this is important, let's note this down." A journaling habit based on answering a simple question, "What was the most interesting thing that happened today?" will catch all the really important stuff (and some less important stuff, but that's OK too).

Also, given that one's work diary isn't limited to mistakes, it avoids the risks of being too depressing or of creating the feeling that the only noteworthy things in a work life are errors. Such a negative focus would be a reason to stop keeping the journal, as well as being a distortion. In fact, Amabile & Kramer assert that one very positive outcome of journaling is a heightened appreciation for the progress (small or large) that we make every day in our jobs.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't banish mistakes from the diary. If that's the most interesting thing that happened that day, by all means journal it, and tag it as a mistake.

Then, you could periodically search for all the entries tagged "mistake" and do the same assessment I recommended for the mistake logs.

I have started doing just that.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Losing $25 million on Linens 'n' Things

In a profile of real estate investor Richard Baker, the New York Times inserted a brief but instructive mistake story. Baker is now the CEO of Lord & Taylor, and his NRDC Equity Partners focuses on retailing investments.

[NRDC's] first deal was a dud. After losing out to a consortium of real estate and private equity investors on Toys “R” Us in 2005, Mr. Baker and his partners invested $25 million alongside Apollo Global Management, the private equity firm, in its $5.1 billion purchase of Linens ’n Things. They lost their entire investment when the company, a housewares retailer, collapsed three years later.

Richard Baker says the fiasco taught him a lesson. “Where I failed was that if I’m going to invest in a transaction, I need to control it,” he says.

Of course, it's only been a few years since that experience. Perhaps as time passes Mr. Baker will learn that investments that you control can also fail. If that happens (or doesn't happen), it'll be a great story. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Make a mistake, get promoted

This story is from William Johnson, the CEO of H.J. Heinz.

It was a mistake in this company that got me my first major promotion. We had a hot cocoa line called Alba. We had an underutilized factory in Iowa. I was a young general manager in the company, and I had been challenged with how to use this factory. What should we do rather than close the factory? Although [closing] it was the simple thing to do, long-term it wouldn’t create a lot of value.

We were actually in New York one time and looked up at Warner Brothers and saw Superman flying – I guess this was the time of the first Superman movie in the early to mid-eighties – and Superman had just been put on Superman Peanut Butter, which was selling like crazy. So, we literally walked in unannounced, went upstairs, walked in to the licensing department, met with the merchandising guy – the guy who had the licensing for Warner Communications – and asked if we could have the Superman license to launch hot cocoa, therefore going after kids. I got it granted right there; we only had to work out the details.

I went back to my boss at the time and said, “We have an idea. Give us six weeks, and let’s go play with it.” So we researched it – research said it would be a good idea – tested it with kids, developed the product, and were ready to go. I walked into my boss and said, “I want to launch this thing nationally.” He looked at me like I had two heads and said that we didn’t have enough research, that it was a big risk, and so forth. [He said,] “How about if we do it regionally?” I said, “Okay, we’ll do it regionally.” It failed miserably. We underestimated how the competitors would react.

Two months later I was promoted to vice president from my general manager position, and I asked my boss at the time why. He said, “Because in order to get ahead, innovate, and move the business forward, you have to be prepared to take risks and suffer the consequences. The fact that you took the chance, came up with the idea, moved it ahead, and tried to solve a problem did not create a problem because we cleaned it up without substantial costs. That says to me that you’re prepared to take risks, many of which are judgment calls. And sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong.”

Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Press. Excerpted from Lessons Learned: Straight Talk from the World’s Top Business Leaders--Overcoming Obstacles. Copyright (c) 2009 Fifty Lessons Limited; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Condoleezza Rice thinks reflecting on mistakes "not a very fruitful exercise"

This is a fascinating exchange from the New York Times Magazine interview of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

I’ve read that people consider you almost incapable of admitting a mistake. What do you consider to be the biggest of your career? 
You know, I’ve done pretty well. I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the past that way.
You can’t think of just one? 
I’m certain I can find many. It’s just not a very fruitful exercise.

This is a very smart, accomplished, experienced person saying out loud, in print, that "dwelling on the past" isn't useful. This makes me think about what it must be like at the highest levels of public office, where every decision is second-, third- and fourth-guessed, where 35-40% of the people reflexively disagree with any action you take. It's a place, even years after leaving, where reflection and self-criticism is difficult even for the best and brightest.

Consider Robert S. McNamara. Widely vilified for his role in Vietnam, it took him thirty years before he wrote "In Retrospect," in which he finally came to terms with the consequences of his decisions while Secretary of Defense.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Mariano Rivera Yelled At For Blowing Save," says my favorite fake news source

For those outside the Americas, Rivera is perhaps the greatest closer (pitcher who finishes the game to preserve a win) in the history of baseball. He very rarely blows a save - meaning losing the lead while he is pitching - which of course makes the headline very funny from the get-go. The article reads:

Following Mariano Rivera's second consecutive blown save Sunday, coaches and executives led the11-time All Star and World Series MVP into an office, slammed the door shut, and reamed him out for several minutes, team sources reported. "I heard coach [Joe Girardi] scream, 'You have one responsibility out there, and you screwed it up, goddammit!'" said outfielder Curtis Granderson, adding that he also heard several voices shout "Take your head out of your ass," "You're the worst closer in the world!" and "I am so mad at you right now." I am so mad at you right now!" "Mariano had tears running down his cheeks when he walked back into the locker room, but that didn't stop Derek [Jeter] or Robinson [Cano] from telling him to stop acting like a fucking baby." Though Rivera later apologized for his actions, Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild told him to sit down, shut up, and think about what he did.

From The Onion.

Now what makes this funny, besides the incongruity of Rivera's failure, is of course the feeling of familiarity that it has. Who hasn't been reamed out by a manager at one time or another? And does the harsh tone of voice, word choice, etc., improve your performance? No. All it does is show the fear and vulnerability on behalf of the manager.

When a boss threatens, "You better do better next time," is the unsaid rest of the phrase "or you'll be fired"? Or is it "or I'll be fired"?