Recovering From Failure

Recovering from failure, at some point in our careers, we all fail. It is how we recover from that failure that differentiates us.

Failure is hard, it is ego shattering and very painful. But as Robert Kanaat writes; “failure, as much as it hurts, is a necessary evil. Failure, and the resultant pain it causes, helps to shape and mold us, tailoring a platform for future success. It doesn’t feel like something that’s beneficial at all when we’re going through it, but that failure is, in fact, a prerequisite for success.” 

The first step to dealing with any failure is to fix it yourself – don’t leave the clean up to anyone else, help the team recover and find solutions to move forward. Secondly apologise quickly, own the issue by taking responsibility and having a clear plan for resolution. Thirdly move on by focusing and managing your emotions.

Virginia Villari writes in The Startup about the five strategies she used to help her focus and deal with her emotions when dealing with a major failure. She used this approach to transform her mindset after her business failed.

  1. Replace the word ‘FAILURE’ with ‘EXPERIENCE’ – change the language it is a first step and it helps to change the emotion and the meaning.
  2. Tame the Ego and practice humility.
  3. Practice Acceptance. Humility leads to acceptance, we can’t change the past but we can understand and learn from it.
  4. Embrace change. Accept that everything changes all the time, regardless of our input and learn how to let go.
  5. Turn the Negative into Positive. Gratitude is the key – what ever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, everything was a learning opportunity.
Fear of Failure
Image Credit: Taryn Elliot (Pexels)

The term “failure” brings with it a burden of negative emotions, including shame, guilt and regret. It hinders our progress as we get stuck in mental loops and rumination about the fact that it shouldn’t have happened; that we’re not good enough; that we did something wrong and we should have done and known better.

Virginia Villari, The Startup

Robert Kanaat adds 3 methods to Virginia’s list

  1. Be Passionate About Your Dreams – When you are truly passionate about something you have a deep and burning desire to achieve it.
  2. Ensure You Are Adding Value To The World – Success comes from adding value in the world not from taking advantage of others. When you create real value, you differentiate yourself.
  3. Shift Your Focus By Contributing To Others – Negative emotions can become all consuming, and it can be hard to focus on positivity if we are stuck in the aftermath of a failure. When you are grateful you are on the basis to happiness and by contributing to others you can transform your emotions.

Over my career I have always held a clear belief that you need to learn from mistakes, and not to be afraid of failure. If you fear failure, you stop taking risks and you stop being innovative.

Never waste an outage or a failure.

Crispin Blackall

My guidance to my team was to never waste an outage or a failure, they are learning events. Leaders need to make sure that fear of failure is replaced by learning from failure and as long as the mistakes are not repeated the growth in development can actually unleash future potential.

How do you motivate your team (and yourself) to have this mindset during a period of extensive turbulence, career uncertainty and market risk. It is rooted in establishing psychological safety.

Let employees feel safe to fail. Failure doesn’t only happen at the top. Anyone in the organisation may at times make mistakes that affect the bottom line or that adversely affect the company’s public image.

The best leaders take responsibility for the failures of their people, but that doesn’t mean they shoulder unjust blame. Rather, they let employees accept responsibility for their mistakes and give those workers the opportunity to make amends.

“When you are leading employees through failure, you have to make sure they feel safe failing and that their job is not on the line unless they keep failing over and over again,” Assaraf said. “Always extrapolate the lesson [from those failures].”

Letting go doesn’t mean disregarding or dismissing, it’s realizing that you can’t fix the unfixable. A smarter thing to do is to take with you what you’ve learned from your mistakes, understand the valuable lessons and use your newly acquired skills and knowledge as your weapons to succeed next time. That is: Fail Forward!

Virginia Villari, The Startup
Synopsis of an article from Thrive Global
How to Recover From Failure as a Leader
by Randall Hunt
Published: 6th October 2020

and from Inc. 
How to Recover From an Epic Fail - A step-by-step method for dealing with--and overcoming--a huge failure in your life or career
by Geoffrey James
Published: 28th February 2014

and from Medium - The Startup
How Do You Recover From Failure?
by Virginia Villari
Published: 17th September 2019 

and from Wanderlustworker
The 3 Best Ways to Recover from Failure
by Robert Kanaat

and from Business News Daily
How Successful Leaders Recover from Failure
By Andrew Martins
Published: 14th March 2019

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