As I sit in front of my TV, mesmerized by the magic of Olympian athleticism, I can’t help but think about what it took for those athletes to get where they are today.
Years of training, learning, injuries, winning, and, perhaps most importantly (yet also most undervalued), failing.
Soul-crushing, devastating, painful failures that can break a person’s resolve and lead to giving up on one’s dream.
The difference between being average and being someone who succeeds at achieving their goals (and perhaps even makes it to the Olympics!) is what comes after failure.
Instead of giving up, elite athletes find a way to pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and give it their best shot all over again.
All of us have the ability to be elite in our jobs/fields. Becoming one of the best at what we do comes from possessing passion, a deep desire to succeed and serve others with our work, and the ability to bounce back even after looking failure straight in the eye.
In life and in managing projects, it’s how you deal with failures that can define your success the next time around.
The next time you hit a snag in the road, whether in life or in one of your projects, try following these steps to come back even stronger:
Accept that you may have failed, or been part of a failure. Especially if you are used to winning, or always being on top, acceptance can be difficult. Your first reaction may be to fight, deny, or even project failure onto others.
When faced with failure (whether in the form of a project that’s gone completely off-track, critical feedback on your work performance, or in a personal relationship), take a step back and try to separate yourself from the event.
Rather than beat yourself up, wallow in the misery of failure, and get stuck, remember that you are not the failure you are facing.
Accept that there may be some validity and reason to what is happening; perhaps you didn’t pay as much attention to a certain phase of planning your project, perhaps you were so focused on the details that you lost sight of the big picture, perhaps you were just insensitive to someone’s needs.
Accepting failure takes courage, grace, and humility.
Congratulate yourself on making it through the hardest part of bouncing back!
After accepting the failure, do some (but not too much) analysis on what went wrong. Was it an oversight that you can pay more attention to in the future? Was it a behavior that you weren’t even aware had an impact on others? Was it simply lack of skill in a certain area?
One of my favorite terms in life and in project management is “root cause”. There won’t always be one root cause that you can pinpoint (how awesome would that be?), but it’s always a great educational exercise to work through the layers as you try to find one.
3- Damage Control:
Figure out how you are going to right your wrong. It’s that simple. What steps can you take to immediately make things better?
Can you identify someone you really should apologize to? Can you send an email to your project team showing how thoughtful you’ve been in accepting what went wrong and figuring out why it happened? Then do it.
Demonstrating your ability to handle defeat with maturity and a forward-thinking mentality will make you stand out from others, give you credibility, and perhaps even provide you with a second chance.
Now that you have it, take that second chance by the horns and OWN IT! You’ve done the hard work of accepting and analyzing the failure, now determine what steps you need to take to ensure you don’t make the same mistake all over again.
What things have you learned from this failure that you can apply moving forward? Once you’ve determined the steps you need to take to move from failure to success, write them down and solicit feedback if possible!
For example, if your failure involved someone else or even an entire team, choose someone who was impacted and who you trust, and run your plan by them. They may have some ideas on how to improve your outcome the next time around that you didn’t think of. At a minimum, they will have a greater appreciation for you and your approach.
If you want to end up in the winners’ circle, remember this:
Failures should not define us as people, but if we are deliberate, we can ensure that our failures help us become more resilient, and ultimately, define our path to success.