Just Move On: The Best Leaders Own Their Failures And Learn From Them – Forbes

Posted: December 30, 2020 at 10:50 pm

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Failure. No one likes it, yet we all experience it sometime in our lives. We may think we are doing all of the right things as leaders and that every employee agrees, but typically that is not the case. We may also believe that as leaders we should have all of the answers, but that is unlikely to happen. If we are pushing ourselves, it is more likely that we will experience some stumbling blocks.

In fact, dealing with setbacks, obstacles, and failures is such a common human condition that we have courses on building resilience and on learning from our mistakes. There are many quotes from famous athletes, business people, writers, and other professionals about how they experienced numerous rejections yet learned from these disappointments, and eventually became successful. For example, Henry Ford said failure is simply the opportunity to begin again; this time more intelligently. One of my favorite quotes is by the basketball legend, Michael Jordan who said Ive missed more than 9000 shots in my career. Ive lost almost 300 games, and 26 times Ive been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. Ive failed over and over and over again. That is why I succeed.

Leaders treat failure as a learning opportunity

As leaders, we have all experienced letdowns. How we respond to them, especially as leaders, tells a lot about our character and resilience. Its not easy and certainly the higher you are in a leadership position the harder it may be to deal with face loss where we fear losing the respect of others when we fail. It can be especially challenging if it wasnt expected. You thought you were doing a great job but received feedback that it wasnt going as well as you thought. Or, you believed you were a shoo-in for that next promotion, but it went to someone else. As leaders, others watch how we respond to setbacks or failures. Do we deny them or blame others? Or do we own them and figure out how we will move forward?

Interestingly, we teach children from an early age that they will experience setbacks and failures and that they need to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and move on. We may not give them the training or skills to know how to do this, but we encourage them to look at the positive side of things and move on. Yet this can be challenging for all of us, especially those who have not previously had to deal with failures or those higher up in the organization that are uncomfortable admitting failure in front of others.

So, as leaders, what can we do to gracefully move on from our failures or setbacks?

Know it will happen.

It is important to recognize that professional disappointments will occur at some point, especially if you have pushed yourself to tackle new jobs or increasing responsibilities and challenges. No one is prepared for every part of that next job. There are many stories of writers, like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King who received numerous rejections and then went on to become world-renowned. If you havent experienced failure it may be that you havent pushed yourself far enough. Albert Einstein might agree given his quote stating A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new. To grow you have to take on new opportunities and yet those come with new challenges and new potential obstacles. Recognize that pushing yourself to succeed comes with the possibilities of new problems. As Arianna Huffington said failure is not the opposite of success; it is part of success. You need to view success and failure as two sides of the same coin, and know that everything we do will have some elements of success and some elements of failure in it.

Hear it. Listen to what happened and try to understand it.

Self-awareness is critical in this process knowing that we will face difficult times, listening to the perceptions or feedback from others even if its not what we want to hear. These perceptions are important whether we like them or not. In the moment offailure, it's most important to stop and take stock. Experience or try to feel what you're feeling. Initially, stay calm and try to simply absorb it. Later, you can go back to analyze it to try to figure out what happened.

Accept it.

Once you hear it, you have to accept it, whether you want to or not. You wont be able to learn from it if you dont accept it. Basketball star, LeBron James said, You have to be able to accept failure to get better. This can be especially hard for leaders who have moved up the organizational hierarchy because of their successes. It is difficult for them to accept that something did not go right or that they ran into a stumbling block of some sort. Yet, when leaders acknowledge their failures they are also permitting their staff to feel comfortable taking risks instead of being afraid of failing.

Learn from it.

Use failure as feedback. Thomas Edison said, I have not failed. Ive just found 10,000 ways that wont work. What did you get feedback on? Take apart the feedback to understand the areas you are strong in and the areas you still need to work on. As Oprah Winfrey noted failure is a great teacher. And, if you are open to it, every mistake has a lesson to offer. Of course, this is the hard part. Some people are not open to learning from their mistakes and instead blame others rather than seeing what they need to do to change. In organizations, having after-action reviews are a great way to examine what you and your team learned from a project. Some experts even encourage organizations to fail fast so that they can learn from their innovations. Can individuals do the same?

Stay positive. Use failure as a learning opportunity.

It is easy to get discouraged with obstacles along your path or setbacks that you werent counting on. But you have to stay positive. Leaders especially have to be positive to show a path of hope amidst difficulties or problems. Their followers are watching them and counting on them. As one of the great motivational speakers, Zig Ziglar said, Stay positive. If you learn from defeat, you arent really lost. Great leaders take accountability and own the mistakes, enabling everyone to learn from them.

Let the learning define you, not the failure.

Some people cant handle failure and let it take them down. Thus, they are defining themselves by the failure and not by what they have learned from the failure. Richard Branson, Head of Virgin Group, Ltd said dont let failure define you. Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again. If you accept that you will experience failures in your life especially as you challenge yourself, then you will also know that you can move on past the disappointments. Use the failure to take the time to reevaluate your goals and priorities to see if you are on the right path.

We will all experience setbacks and failures in our lives. It is inevitable, especially the more we take on new jobs and assignments and push ourselves to get out of our comfort zones and drive our firms to be open to new processes, people, and goals. As leaders, we need to serve as role models to demonstrate how to be graceful with losses and to show resilience in picking ourselves up to push forward or to take on new projects. After all, isnt that what we teach our children?

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Just Move On: The Best Leaders Own Their Failures And Learn From Them - Forbes

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December 30th, 2020 at 10:50 pm

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