Regardless of your title, the size of your office, or your bank account balance, no one gets through life without a few struggles. The good news is, according to Eilene Zimmerman, “Every time we try something new and fail, it provides valuable information about what went wrong and, as important, what went right.”
Kevin O’Leary goes so far as to call failure “the key to success,” and Jessica Mah argues she can turn “any con into a pro.” While the following list isn’t a standard part of an MBA program, they are tried and true tips from executive clients, based on their experiences of emerging even stronger having survived a professional defeat.
Here are 15 things the best and brightest leaders do to get back up and move on with life after a failure.
1. Set Limits on How Long You Allow Yourself to Be Upset
The sooner you accept the loss and focus your attention on forging ahead, the quicker new doors of opportunity will open. Successful people don’t wallow for very long. They acknowledge their mistake, take their lumps, and get on with life.
2. Look for the Lesson
Whether the setback was a personality conflict or a major business faux pas, there is something positive you can glean from the experience.
3. Be Honest About Wrong Turns
Leaders work on instinct and, chances are, your gut was telling you it wasn’t a good idea from the very beginning. Lying to yourself only holds up your journey and leads to repeating the same mistake again and again.
4. Help Someone Else Out
Rather than disappearing into a hole, it’s important to continue to mentor, show up for work, and stay active in your community.
5. Don’t Look for Someone Else to Save You
Weigh thoughtful feedback from others, but ultimately, make your own decision.
6. Create Boundaries
Knowing when and where to draw the line is important to your mental and physical health. Learn when to say “yes,” and when to go with a “no thanks.”
7. Take a Leap Into the Unknown
Evaluate the pros and cons of any move, but don’t let fear hold you back from a new opportunity.
8. Show Compassion
Goodness isn’t reserved for photo ops, charity galas, and fundraisers, but is regularly extended to people from whom you don’t expect anything in return.
9. Ignore the Naysayers
The old saying is true: While some people are busy giving reasons for why something can’t be done, others are busy doing it.
10. Place a High Value on Truth, Trust, and Authenticity
Trust takes years to build and minutes to destroy. It’s a precious commodity that is valued above all else.
11. Ask for Help
Pride is often a factor in refusing the assistance of those that can make a difference. Surround yourself with people who have consistently demonstrated their dedication and a willingness to share their wisdom.
12. Cry it Out (in Private)
There is no shame in healing tears. Just do it in private, or in front of someone you trust.
13. Call a Friend
Connection with others feeds our souls. No matter how busy you are, devote time and energy to maintaining vital relationships.
14. Sometimes Work Can Wait
A leader knows the value of setting aside time for their mate, children, and family—of equal importance is making time for yourself.
15. Do the Next Right Thing
When there isn’t anything left to do, put one foot in front of the other and point yourself in the right direction.
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