As a leader, how do you respond where there is a setback or a failure? How do you respond if you fall short of a goal or miss a milestone in a project?
The way that we respond as leaders really does set the tone for the organization. If we stay cool and calm and reflective, that sends a distinct message. But so does getting angry and upset and blaming others. That sends a message, though a very negative one. In either case, the reaction will have an impact on your team.
When stuff happens, I urge you to ask yourself two questions:
- What can we learn from this?
- How can it serve, or challenge, us going forward?
The first question is simple but essential. What does our failure – whatever form it takes – tell us? What is the lesson that we should be learning? Answering that question honestly, whether the root causes of the failure were external or internal, will do two things. First, you and your team will reflect on what happened. Second, it is the starting point for developing responses and fixes for the causes of the failure.
Then, on the next project, you will know the danger signs to watch for, and if they show up, you will have thought through how to overcome them. In the interim, the self-analysis that you and your team will do assures you stay focused on how to get some benefit out of your frustration.
The second question is one that you can use to challenge yourself and leverage what you have learned in the future. “How can this serve us going forward” is a great question, particularly when you’re facing an extremely frustrating setback.
Remember, as leaders we need to make sure we stay out of any drama. And we also need to face the fact that we, and our teams, are going to make mistakes. Other departments in our organization will make mistakes. Our vendors will too. Heck, even our customers are going to make mistakes (though you may not want to tell them that).
Our focus should always be on what we can learn from our mistakes and setbacks. Mistakes, setbacks, and other challenges are simply an unavoidable part of achieving any bold goal. And the bolder our goal, the greater our vision, the bigger the challenges we will face. It is all about how to deal with them.
So keep these two questions in mind and see if it doesn’t help transform the way that you manage your team and leverage its resourcefulness.