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The EDGE Method Step One: Educate

In Refining Through Failure, one thing we talk about is the cost of failure. There are several things to consider in the cost of failure but the greatest is the loss of reputation, because that’s the catalyst for all the other components. We set boundaries and processes to protect our reputation, our company’s reputation, and the reputations of our team members and clients.

In a command and control organization, they attempt to protect their reputation by simply placing restrictive boundaries around people, turning them into checklist-following robots who don’t understand why they do what they do. A checklist without a why behind it is a boundary that is constraining, whereas the same process or checklist can become freeing when the person understands that it was made to protect their reputation and to help them become highly competent at doing that task.

Being given a list of rules feels constraining, but when you understand that the boundaries are there to protect you, you can move more freely and without restriction. People who may have said, “why are they so controlling, don’t they trust me?” will now say, “oh, they trust me and want to protect my reputation, that process makes sense.”

My wife Lora has a salon, and she has a process for everything. She has a process for the products, the robes, checking the bathroom, everything. We were talking about it, because she was disappointed that employee participation in the process was somewhere around 60 percent. In talking about it, she realized she had still just been telling them what to do, and not explaining why.

That next day, she explained to her team that each process was designed to make sure that every client—from the first person who came in that morning to the last person who left—had the same extraordinary experience. Because her team members shared that purpose, once they understood that was the reason for the process, they haven’t missed one day of that checklist in eight months. They understood that the “why” wasn’t to control them, it was to help them serve others more effectively.

Boundaries have been around since the beginning of time. Think about the Ten Commandments—they aren’t there to control you, they’re there to set boundaries around how you treat your relationship with God, yourself, and others. If you live a life focused on loving God, yourself, and others, you’ll naturally follow those commandments. That’s why Jesus said there were really only two rules: Love God with all your heart, and love others as you love yourself. If you love someone, you won’t kill them. If you love yourself, you won’t covet what other people have because that just makes you miserable. If you love God, you won’t take His name in vain. Every single one comes down to love.


Explaining is a dialogue, a conversation not dictation. We have to ask the other person, “What did you hear?” We will know they really understand when what we taught and what they heard is the same.


I have several clients transitioning their businesses from a command and control culture, to a trust and inspire culture. In doing so, they are each practicing “Paul and Timothy” mentorship relationships with their team members using the EDGE Method.

A principle taught in martial arts and used by Navy SEALs is: “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” The E in the EDGE Method—explain—is the slow part. It needs to be slow, and very intentional. Most CEOs and leaders are used to moving really quickly. It is really hard to slow down, and that’s why we tend toward just telling them what to do and why, without explaining why.

Telling someone why they’re doing something is not the same thing as explaining. Explaining is a dialogue, a conversation not dictation. We have to ask the other person, “What did you hear?” Then “hear” their response and ask clarifying questions until we’ve done a good job explaining. We will know they really understand when what we taught and what they heard is the same.

We were talking about patience recently in a Bible study I attend. It hit me that all of my great coaches and all my great teachers are always patient with me and never in a hurry. That’s why the E in EDGE is slow, because if there’s not clarity as we go through demonstrating and guiding, we will always have to go back to explaining.

I’ve had clients who have started to implement the EDGE Method come to me and say, “It’s not working. I told them exactly what to do, I laid it all out there and told them why, but it’s not working.”

That’s when I ask them, “Did you ask what they heard?”

When a client of mine is struggling with this process, the answer is always, “No, I just told them.”

That’s just continuing a culture of command and control, using “trust and inspire” wording. We’re creatures of habit and repetition so it’s difficult to shift our habits. If you’re “telling” someone why, you’re still just communicating the “what.” The simplest solution is to end your explanation with, “Explain to me what you just heard.” That’s what starts the dialogue.

My clients always have an “ah ha” moment when they hear that. “All I have to do is ask what they heard?” Yes. Explaining is a dialogue where they gain clarification about the real “why” of whatever the process is, and you gain clarification on how well they’re understanding it.

Truly educating is explaining that a checklist (one that may feel like a constraining boundary) is really meant to provide freedom and protection of reputation. Remember the game we all played as kids—we called it “grapevine” and other people called it “telephone.” Basically you tell the person next to you a “secret” and they pass it on to the next person in the circle, and back around to the original person who usually hears something wildly different from what was originally said. If we don’t practice asking people to explain what they heard us say, that’s what we’ll end up with.

We all hear what we want to hear—we’re naturally skewed toward hearing something that meets some need or want we have internally. That’s why we have to go slowly when explaining something new.

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