The Ultimate Ways Resilient Leaders Bounce Back From Failure After They’ve Messed Up
We all experience setbacks or obstacles in our personal and business lives, however it’s what we learn from our setbacks and failures that really propels us forward. Indeed, resilient leaders are those people who know how to bounce back from failure (even when they have messed up).
Leaders operate at the crossroads of many pressures.
They navigate their businesses through the complexity of the market; they harness the insights of emotional intelligence and organizational psychology to cultivate team cultures; they embody the public face of their firms; they protect the trust of investors and stakeholders. And they’re human, which means another reality emerges at leadership’s crossroads: fumbles.
Let’s face it: You really can’t stop failures from occurring.
Failure in leadership, like almost everything else in life, does not result from a single mistake or misjudgment, no matter how vigilant you might be. Rather, there are a series of errors never corrected as a result of inadequate feedback and meaningful data as things proceed. Even life expectancy and health problems fail the way all complex systems fall apart, including those within organizations — because of random and gradual factors that are barely noticed.
Thus, it’s important to remain resilient in the face of these setbacks.
Resilience is what gets you back up after you have fallen down. After every setback you encounter you have the choice to quit or keep trying. It’s normal to feel fearful or overwhelmed, but what matters are the steps you take next. Will you let your doubts overcome you? Or will you lean into the fear and keep going?
So how should a leader lead in light of the inevitability of a fumble or mistake? How should they lead when it occurs?
If you think all failures are bad, it’s time to reconsider your views. There are ways to tackle challenges you are facing as a leader. Here’s a look at recommendations for getting back up after a significant failure; Five ways you can bounce back from failure after a bout of adversity.
Tip #1: Fight or Flight
As hard as it can be to see failure as anything other than something to avoid at all costs, it can be a learning experience. Creating anything is hard, and roadblocks pop up from time to time. Success or failure doesn’t have to be a binary concept as long as you learn to separate the failure from who you are as a person.
Sure. Failing is not fun. Failure dings one’s reputation, or so it is believed.
Let’s be candid for a moment: If you refuse to fail, you’ll never learn how to do anything any differently or better than you are now and if you don’t like the results of what you have now, failing is your fastest, best option to arrive at a new situation. The challenge for most leaders is that failure is seemingly inextricably linked to how good they’re doing in their role or performance. Own your errors and maybe we stop believing that the only time it’s okay to own those errors is in hindsight of some stellar success. You don’t have to become a billionaire, or the Vice President of your company before you can admit you made a few blunders in your journey.
When a fumble occurs, leaders lead through it by owning what’s theirs to own.
When a professional setback occurs, it’s likely some elements of trust are at risk, and a leader who focuses on a blame game encourages the same destructive possibilities as throwing kerosene on a lit match. Instead, when leaders take responsibility, a number of healthy things cascade from the leader into the company: They begin to repair damaged trust among involved team members and cultivate work environments where mistakes are an understood and accepted part of leadership, innovation, and creativity. That way, such leaders elevate a healthy standard of leadership for others in the company to aspire to.
Stuff happens! Life is not fair! What are you going to do? Blame, complain and be a victim? Or are you going to accept that this reality?
Set-backs and failures hurt. Don’t deny the pain, accept it, and realize that your emotions are helping you to process the gap between your expectations and reality? When you accept that your emotions are preparing you to be stronger next time, you will be pleasantly surprised that you move through the pain faster. Every set-back or success has a lesson in it. Of course it hurts, but regardless of whether you make a loss or a win, you should set the emotions aside and analyze what you can learn from it.
Resiliency is a key skill that you should work hard to maintain.
Being confident and flexible are also skills that have a lot to do with resiliency. Even if you know in your heart you are not a failure, it doesn’t make failing any less painful. Resilient individuals are able to develop a mental capacity which let’s them adapt to any adversity, bending instead of breaking. Accept, adapt and move forward. The more you bounce back from failure the easier it will be, the less daunting future challenges seem.
Tip #2: Fix What's Fixable
Even Thomas Edison had failed attempts in leading his light-bulb experiments, but because, in this well-known example, he fixed what failed over and over again, he finally found the right combination to light up the world with his idea. So, maybe you recently failed. Fix what you can see led to the failure and adjust it for next time. That is learning.
As you own your failure, fix what you can, and learn from the failed experience. Leaders know the only way to continue to make progress is to keep going.
Move forward. Whether that means you delegate the task at which you keep failing or you find help to keep you from failing in that area, or you doggedly work at it until failure is no longer the outcome, move the heck on. As comedian Darren Lacroix tells his audiences, don’t fall on your face and then stay down there forever talking about it while you’re still lying on your face. If you face plant, it doesn’t mean you need to grow roots there. Learn to bounce, improve your steps, and keep walking.
Setting small attainable targets is an effective idea to begin as bouncing back from failure.
Making targets realistic implies you are possibly to attain them, keeping positivity thriving during all the work you perform. As soon as you have achieved these smaller targets, you can prolong setting higher and higher targets. Successful people were not always successful; some failed multiple times before finding their success. The key to their eventual success is that they didn’t give up. You must fight off fear. Fear of a second failure can rob you of the needed energy to keep plugging away at your dream.
After you’ve made a mistake, fix the system, not just the problem.
Chances are something in your current system produced the result. As you know, your system is perfectly designed to get the results it’s currently getting, good or bad. Go back to your team and now work on the larger issue of how to handle the systems issues that will help ensure problems like this won’t happen again. And if you adopt this approach, it will not just help you solve an issue, it will make you a better leader.
Be flexible and open-minded to trying new approaches.
Some leaders become inflexible and overly cautious after a failure. Taking risks is necessary for leaders who want to succeed. Don’t insulate yourself or be fearful of making decisions, you will make more right ones than wrong ones. Failure teaches us to be flexible. Flexibility is key to success. Always be willing to vary your approaches to problems and circumstances to see what works best. When leaders fail, they see it as a momentary event, not a life sentence. It’s not the end of the world, but a chance to project yourself ahead and see yourself having overcome and persevered.
Tip #3: Keep Your Composure
Mistakes can bombard a leader’s psyche and cause them to freeze, especially if they’ve never considered the possibility of making one. Leaders who’ve acknowledged that fumbles happen are better suited to learn from and lead through them with integrity. A leader who’s blindsided by the possibility of a mistake might unnecessarily dwell on it, repeating and reciting entire sequences in their heads at the expense of their day-to-day duties.
Embarrassment, anxiety, and shame quickly consume a leader who is without a strategy.
But with a fail-forward strategy, leaders who’ve owned their mistakes and made apologies are positioned to gain the most as they learn and lead teams who see the value of learning forward. When a leader recognizes they’ve made a mistake, everything from worst-case scenarios to the well-being of every employee can begin flooding their mind. A fail-forward strategy helps leaders find a suitable way to pause, consider how likely the worst-case scenarios are, then move forward without immediately reacting.
In the wake of a business failure it can be hard to keep a positive outlook.
The resulting fallout might be an inevitable part of failure, but how long those negative emotions last is up to the individual. Failure is an opportunity for learning, but not many people see it that way especially if they have been largely successful in life. But instead of letting failure decrease your confidence, you should let it do the opposite as failure helps us become better people and better leaders. A study found that adopting an attitude of “realistic optimism” can boost happiness and resilience. In other words: you can ditch the rose-colored glasses and the doomsday scenario for something in between. And when Plan A doesn’t work, remember that there are 26 letters in the alphabet.
No matter what you are feeling about a failure, do not drop your composure over it.
You play with your reputation if you go all wild over the failure and do not channel your emotions. Never unload your anger on others. Engage in something focused and energized to eliminate the initial extreme feelings until you calm down. Take your own time in doing so, as overcoming fear of failure is not possible overnight. The remarkable thing that you can do through failure is to infuse humor into your deliberation of what happened. While there can be a stage in which you feel particularly tender, being capable to laugh at your own mistakes will be a significant element of the healing procedure, preparing you for moving on again.
No one expects you to be an emotionless robot. The key is to know how to handle your feelings and still do the right things as a leader.
While you can’t always control that you feel that way initially, you can control your response. When presented with a difficult situation, ask yourself if you have to deal with the issue immediately or if you can wait a day. The tactic of sleeping on it, is one that has well served many of the world’s best leaders. In Dale Carnegie’s leadership classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he relates a story about a legendary U.S. President who learned to follow this habit. Even a slight distance from the heat of the moment can make all the difference in resolving a tough situation effectively.
Tip #4: Lean On Your Support System
Support is of course a big necessity for anyone looking to move on from failure. This normally starts with the person’s inner circle of family, friends and trusted peers. That circle can be expanded, however. When you’ve experienced a failure, ask a mentor for their honest feedback. Good mentors will give you candid feedback, let you vent and provide the support and encouragement to help you take positive steps forward.
An open leader is a great leader. Great leaders know they have blind spots. So get help. Be open. Ask for input.
Because you’re still struggling to some extent with shame or fear, you’ll be tempted to think, “well since I’m responsible, I have to fix this.” It’s like when you knocked that vase off the living room end table when you were 8 and tried to glue it back together so your parents would never know. Those instincts never really go away. But sometimes you can’t fix what broke on your own. In fact, usually you can’t.
I’m going to reveal a secret: Don’t go it alone.
Though mistakes are inevitable and preparing for them is essential for effective leadership, experiencing them can still be overwhelming and isolating. Leaders shouldn’t go it alone whether they’re recovering a fumble or developing strategies to “fail-forward.” Combating the isolating potential of a fumble by finding a mentor or hiring a 3rd-party coach can be the difference between a leader regressing or moving forward toward new insights and opportunities.
It might seem like you are alone, but you’re not.
You have people you can rely on, and people you can ask for help. Your inner circle usually consists of family, close friends and trusted peers. High achievers tend to see themselves as lone wolves, or that they must do everything on their own, but that’s just not true and can lead to bad burnout. Let your support system support you from time to time.
When we lack of others who trust in us we start to doubt our importance and worth.
In case family and those close to you locate fault and criticize you, look for those relationships that will motivate and cheer you on. The more robust your support system, the quicker and easier it is to bounce back from life’s inevitable setbacks. Plus you are the company you keep, so surrounding yourself with positive role models is a great way to boost your own vibe.
Tip #5: Remember The Process
Driven achievers and leaders who relish the opportunity to cross items off a list will regularly make the mistake of making learning a single accomplishment. The conversation sounds a bit like this: “Okay, messed that up. Fixed it. Won’t have to learn that lesson again. Done. Next.” Accept your journey as a valuable learning experience that will help you avoid the same mistakes for your next business or project. Failure can be a great teacher if you allow it to be.
If you have big dreams and hopes of high achievement then failure is a part of that process.
What’s essential is to step back and stay focused on your objectives. Re-evaluate what’s working and what’s not working, make some changes and get back on the horse. Resilient individuals see failure as a detour, not a stop sign. When making future decisions, think about the possible hurdles that will occur and plan for them. Being pro-active and having a contingency plan at the ready for when problems occur will help you immensely.
In the process of working towards an outcome, we train ourselves to think and act in certain ways.
Regardless of whether you reach success or failure, you still carry those skills — and it’s that learning process which shapes the person you become. For example, even if your first business idea doesn’t work, you can pick up lifelong skills along the way. For instance, you learn about different monetization strategies, gain technical expertise, and know how to approach similar decisions in the future. Success is always about movement towards your goals.
Believe it or not, there are lots of benefits to failure. In fact, failure can actually be the most valuable learning opportunity out there!
But not if you don’t take the time to examine the experience in-depth. As painful as it may be, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor when you seek to understand why you failed and what you can do differently next time to avoid a similar outcome. Spoiler alert: the cause of failure is not always something you can control, but it’s still worthwhile to have this knowledge in your back pocket. You’ll be more savvy about potential variables that could derail your success the next time around.
Become aware of your own achievements — including your missteps — and give yourself recognition for your resiliency.
Even though you are likely to be pretty consumed with this setback right now, it’s important to recall the successes that you have achieved. So be kind to yourself, and remember that you have been resilient and resourceful before, and you will be again. Well, it’s time for your inner critic to meet your inner advocate. And who exactly is this inner advocate? It’s another voice in your head: the one that defends you. When your inner critic comes at you with ridicule and scorn, your inner advocate jumps in and presents arguments on your behalf. While your inner critic is against you, your inner advocate is for you.
Life is packed with failures and with crossing that passage you get to reach success. So failure is certain in life; expecting to drive through without any bumps is unrealistic and makes you to fall brutally when failure does occur. Shunning failure also averts you from concentrating on acquiring the flexibility required to deal with it, an important aspect of bouncing back.
In the pace and pressure of business, fumbles happen. Every leader encounters them.
The difference between leaders who regress or move forward emerges at the points of mindset and strategy. Leaders with the growth mindset that mistakes are part of leading and learning, and who have a strategy, develop healthier teams, cultivate transparent and innovative cultures, see less turnover, and enjoy higher revenue-creating possibilities.
Everyone fails. Yes, everyone.
If someone claims to have never failed they’re either lying or have never tried very hard. Before you can bask in the euphoria of success you’ve got to hit some pretty low lows… and get right back up and do it again. Remember that the sense of failure in life is the feeling of being alive. It is an indication that you have set things for a go, crossed the edge, and bounced back.
While setbacks can derail us, they also are opportunities to look at a problem from a new perspective.
Failures force us to learn and build confidence in our abilities and judgment. Many professional and personal breakthroughs have been achieved after a failure has occurred. Persevering through setbacks will help you — and your organization — to continue to grow and prosper.
Failures can make or break a business. How you react to those missteps ultimately determines whether you and your business can rise above challenges.
So, if you’re going through tough times right now, do not give up the fight. You’ve got this. There is hope and there are many ways to carry on. What have you found helpful in bouncing back from failure? Anything you would add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.