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What to do in the face of failure

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

You’ve heard it before: If you’ve never failed, you’ve never really succeeded. Some of the most accomplished leaders have endured spectacular flameouts.

Risk-averse executives can “manage upward” and advance because they’re competent, but they’ll get only so far and then grind to a halt.

So, deal with failure and move on.

Heed these three don’ts:
  1. Don’t let failure define you as a person. Even if you made stupid mistakes, you’re not stupid.

  2. Don’t look for scapegoats. Other people aren’t stupid, either.

  3. Don’t limit your thinking to the event itself. Look for broader patterns or values that you can learn from, that can transform the way you proceed the next time and take you to a higher level.

Adopt these three do’s:
  1. Talk to your boss, coach or some other trusted mentor. Many people can’t discuss their failures. It’s painful. But you’ve got to lose that habit or you’ll never grow.

  2. Reflect on what you’ll do differently next time. Of course, you can’t predict every circumstance, but you may face a similar situation again. Many situations will give you an opportunity to use what you’ve learned from this failure.

  3. Find the energy to keep going. Failure saps energy, but leaders who move forward find a way, even if the motivator is fear, anger or some other primal response.

Set new goals. Give yourself pep talks. Whatever works. You may view your persistence as survival, but others will see it as courage.

— Adapted from Leadership Passages, David L. Dotlich, James L. Noel, Norman Walker, Jossey-Bass.

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