In my blog, Failure is Not Fatal, I explored some strategies to persevere when setbacks and failures rear their ugly head. They include setting a new goal, getting into action, not being a lone ranger and persevering. These strategies are valid and offer good reminders to help us move through setbacks and on to the next success. However, sometimes the setback looks too daunting, may be embarrassing or feels too overwhelming to know what to say or what actions to take. During those times of overwhelm, some of us seem to crawl into a hole and stop responding to emails, providing updates or moving our “thing” forward - all while hoping those around us will not notice. 

In this blog, I will share some strategies to crawl out of that hole of despair, so you can get into communication and back on track. Setbacks can range from being off track on an engagement, your personal or leadership goals, your practice area growth, or your firm’s vision. With any of these, consider engaging in one of Stephen M.R. Covey’s trust-building attributes, confronting reality. When you confront reality, you’re practicing two of our key leadership attributes: being 100% responsible and accountable for both the success and failure of the things you own. In his book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, Covey states, “When you openly Confront Reality, it affects speed and cost in at least two important ways. First, it builds the kind of relationships that facilitate open interaction and fast achievement. Second, instead of having to wrestle with all the hard issues on your own while trying to paint a rosy picture for everyone else, you actually engage the creativity, capability, and synergy of others in solving those problems.”

When facing setbacks or failure, to confront reality for yourself and with others, you must first:

  1. Set aside judgment – yours and others. Be compassionate with yourself and realize others will be, too. While it may feel embarrassing when you miss the mark you set, leaders who are forthright and straight about their situation or progress against commitments earn respect and build credibility with others. Being courageous and vulnerable enough to admit when you are off track shows that you are human and gives others the courage to set stretch goals, knowing it’s safe to try and fail, too.
  1. Realize failure is expected sometimes when you’re up to big things and setting big goals. Setting stretch goals, innovating change, and growing in your personal leadership development are all examples of growth, and growth is not always easy. We like to say, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” And, everyone is not doing it-- you are! Acknowledge yourself for the commitments you made and the accomplishments thus far.
  1. Recognize that others have your back and want you to succeed. Powerful leaders work in teams and we surround ourselves with champions and advocates who support us in achieving our goals. Whether it’s your career advisor, your partner group, or a mentor or coach, those are the people who understand you’re not going to knock it out of the park with every swing. While being compassionate, they also believe you will ultimately win the game and will meet with you on the sidelines to strategize the next play, help you get better and execute on the new plan you set.

Working through these three phases and confronting reality swiftly will ensure that you get back in the game and in action to move towards your goal. Sometimes doing so requires acknowledging that priorities have shifted, and the plan needs to change or even be put on the back burner for now. Other times, it’s going back to the brainstorming phase and innovating new ways to accomplish your goal. But often, it’s simply recommitting to the goal you set and following through on the actions you already outlined and committed to. No matter where you are, to move forward you have to crawl out of that hole and make that phone call or schedule that meeting with your coach, trusted colleague, partner or mentor to start a dialogue. When you do, you’ll feel a 50-pound weight lift, too. You’ll realize that you don’t have to hide because you have many others on your team cheering for you, and you will achieve success.

So, where do you need to confront reality today? Who do you need to tell? You can start by sharing with us and posting a comment on this blog. We are interested in you getting back on track to success!