Failure Is Not Fatal

Although, it feels like it sometimes.  Sometimes we have high hopes and expectations and we’re working our plan for our career or organization – then, suddenly it comes to a halt because of a mistake we make or some other unforeseen circumstance occurs.

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” 

~Winston Churchill

Leaders keep moving and adapt to the curve balls thrown at them and the changes that occur all around us – and failure forces us to change.  While most of us don’t like to change (or prefer not to if we don’t have to), change can be good.  Change allows us to reflect on our direction, change our course or make tweaks to it, rally our team, and often, realize better results.

You may be experiencing some form of failure – or setback – right now in your organization or your team (or even in some personal or career goal you’ve set), or you likely have or will experience failure at some point during the year.  When you do, consider these ideas to help you – and your team - move through setbacks and on to the next success – realizing that another failure is likely right around the corner as are many more successes:

Hold your mouth right – and your chin and your eyebrows up and your shoulders down. “Hold your mouth right” is a phrase my partner’s mother uses and it means staying positive and keeping your game face on in the face of failure, uncertainty, and disappointment.  This includes remaining positive in what you say about yourself, your team or others.  It’s too easy to get trapped into a pity party and start second-guessing ourselves when we experience a setback. Instead, stand tall, acknowledge the failure, and look toward the future and the possibility it holds. Others are watching who you’re being during tough times, so it’s more critical than ever to lead by example and assure them (and yourself) that everything will work out – it may not be exactly how you envisioned, but it will work out.  As I said earlier, it could become even better!

Make a new goal – and then plan for it.  Take some time to regroup and answer the question, “Now what?” Find the answer by asking yourself what you’re committed to.  You might find it’s what you’ve always been committed to – your vision for your firm, breaking into a new market, expanding your team, or making a difference for your clients. But, the path to achieve it may now be different and you may need to take a different route or find a new plan to accomplish it.  Commit (or recommit) to your goal and share it with everyone.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

~Winston Churchill

Get in action – sometimes when we fail, we find ourselves wallowing in it.  While you’re planning and making new goals, be sure to stay in action.  Action builds confidence and allows you to overcome doubt, disappointment or frustration.  While you need to take the time to regroup and plan, be careful you don’t get stuck in the conference room or in others’ offices just talking about the situation.  Huddle and then break – everyone should know what is expected of them and what actions they should be taking.  You may need to huddle more often, but have an agenda and then leave with clarity about the actions each of you will take and when you will meet again to discuss the next steps.

Don’t be a lone ranger – Sometimes as leaders, we forget that we don’t have to lead alone.  We can – and should - tap into our partners and team members, mentors, family and faith to move forward and dialogue about specific fears and concerns and generate and explore ideas and new solutions. Engaging with others will provide us with renewed energy and strength and you can provide the same for them. Ultimately, these relationships are what’s most important and often at the root of why we do what we do. So, we should call on others when we experience a setback and allow others to contribute and make a difference.

Persevere – it is the antidote for failure.  Keep moving forward and doing what you know is right despite the setbacks.  You will see new results and you should take the time to celebrate those successes – even the small ones (especially the small ones!) – along your new path.  As leaders, we often don’t spend enough time celebrating our accomplishments or those of others. Acknowledging our successes tells us we’re on the right path and can inform us about any tweaks or changes to our new plan that we need to make, too.

Today is a new day and you can create anything with it. Failures and setbacks are part of the process and should be expected.  How we embrace these setbacks is the true test of who we are as leaders – and often we rise to the best form of ourselves when we are put to that test. What failures or setbacks are you experiencing right now?  Who are you being in the face of them?  What steps are you taking to persevere?  We’d love to learn from you so we can apply your ideas in the face of our setbacks when we encounter them!

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere, and you will find joy in overcoming obstacles.”

~Helen Keller