Early successes opened doors of opportunity for G.J. Hart, C.E.O. of Texas Roadhouse (Publicly traded with 340 locations and 40,000 employees). Eventually, he was invited to revive a stalled start-up that had found new investors. It was complex, costly, high-risk, and high potential. Success required bringing several brands under one roof with all new employees.
G.J. failed – he over-promised and under-delivered. Things fell apart and G.J. started losing his health. I couldn’t tell if he was fired, resigned, or a combination of both. I didn’t ask.
G.J. Hart has suffered. He didn’t use that term. I am. It’s how I see it. He suffered because of his own weakness.
He explains his frailty, “I couldn’t say no to financial backers.”
Rather than setting realistic expectations, he said he felt compelled to agree to undeliverable deliverables. He called it, “lack of courage.”
I ask G.J. what failure taught him. He said, “I learned to have the courage to go slow.” He learned to speak the truth of long-term value and reject the seduction of short-term profits.
Those who fail well are humbled and enlightened.
Being remade through frailty and failure produces the rare commodity of “compassionate-strength.” Suffering well softens the heart, hardens the will and infuses with courage.
While G.J. talked, I thought about his current leadership philosophy at the rapidly expanding Texas Roadhouse franchise. It’s clear failure is a component of his success. He found the courage to go slow; to take the time to build sustaining culture. Going slow is resulting in fast growth.
Frailties didn’t break him, they helped make him.
This is the final installment of my enlightening conversation with G.J. Hart.
Pt. 1 “A Dealer in Hope“
Pt. 2 “The Younger Leads the Older”
What are some lessons failure has taught you?