Perhaps the one universal truth of the business world is, simply put… stuff happens. Even the most fastidious workers experience the humbling sting of failure from time to time. It just comes with the territory of being human. However, whether failure stems from a calculated risk or a careless oversight, there’s always an opportunity to set a precedent for future failures in how you react.
Abraham Lincoln said, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure,” – words that are particularly poignant in the workplace. Here are some thoughts to consider to help you stay positive and get back on track the next time you find yourself standing in the aftermath of a big mistake.
Don’t be ashamed to admit defeat. In many cases, you’ll find that you will gain more respect from failing than if you had never even tried at all. Innovation rarely comes without a little trial and error. And failure presents an opportunity to truly distinguish yourself as a dedicated leader. Don’t try to find a way to pass the buck or bring in innocent bystanders when things go wrong. Swallow your pride and show a little bit of humility by owning your mistakes and making the necessary apologies. The actual act of failure doesn’t necessarily define you, it’s more important how you respond immediately after.
Don’t Dwell on Failure
You can’t change the past, so you might as well focus on the future. The time you spend dwelling on the fact that you failed, is time that is better spent on figuring out what went wrong and what adjustments need to be made the next time around. It’s important to act quickly and deliberately to minimize damages and to rebuild your momentum. Identify the key factors that led to your mistake and make any necessary changes to avoid them in the future. While failure can deal a significant blow to the ego, constantly replaying the incident in your head and admitting defeat won’t help you save face. Brush yourself off, tend to your wounds, and get right back into action.
Share What You’ve Learned
Treat failure as a valuable teaching opportunity and share your experiences with others in your organization. It may feel awkward putting a mistake you made on display for your colleagues and coworkers, but it could help them avoid a few headaches, which, in the long run, only benefits the company as a whole. Remember the saying, “Hindsight explains the injury that foresight would have prevented,” and take advantage of an opportunity to help make your workforce stronger.
Nobody’s perfect and we’ve all made mistakes. The important part is striving to learn from our follies and be better prepared to handle future problems. Can you think of a time when lessons learned from past failures led to future success? Let us know in the comments section below.