We hear it all the time –

Failure is success in progress. – Albert Einstein

Failure is not the opposite of success, it's part of success. – Arianna Huffington

The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried. – Steven McCranie

Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.- Winston Churchill

And I think most of us agree with this in theory. Ideally we take risks without fear of failure and pick ourselves up and keep going when we do fail.

Easier said than done.

If you've experienced a major failure at work or in life, you know it's much harder to bounce back from failure than just saying you will.

Failure hurts our ego. It creates self-doubt and can cause others to doubt us as well. We may feel embarrassed or even ashamed, and these are real feelings we need to deal with if we want to feel confident in taking risks again.

So today this is what I'm breaking down: How to handle and recover from a major failure at work – but you can apply most of this to any failure in life. Thanks to Janine for the topic request because this is a good one we don't talk about enough.

I'm not going to try to convince you that failure is part of success – I think at this point most of us can agree that those who have been most successful have failed along the way.

Instead, we'll learn about how to manage a situation where you've messed up and then explore the even harder part – managing your mindset after a failure!

Let's dive in.

Managing a failure once it's happened

There are 3 steps to help you handle your failure and maintain people's confidence on the other side:

1. Take full responsibility

The first thing you'll want to do is take complete responsibility for your mistake or failure. There may be a 100 reasons this project failed, but if you were the one who was pushing for it and ultimately accountable, it's up to you to take responsibility. Them's the breaks.

Playing the blame game will erode people's trust in you as a leader or future leader. Instead, be straight up and admit you made the wrong call and if appropriate, apologize.

2. Acknowledge what went wrong and what you've learned

This is your opportunity to show that you've reflected on what happened and understand where things went wrong. This is really important in terms of the perception – if you have zero clue why things went sideways, who's to say it won't happen again.

So take some time to reflect on why the failure happened, what the key drivers were and what you would have done differently if you could go back in time. Consider whether any lessons learned are more broadly applicable or indicative of a bigger problem that should be addressed.

Here's a list of 7 reflection questions I've found helpful you can use:

Reflection Excercise.pdf

3. Share your plan to remedy the situation or ensure it doesn't happen again

It's one thing to admit failure and quite another to admit failure AND have a plan forward. If possible, do the latter. Based on what happened and what you've learned, what's your recommendation or plan of action? Can you mitigate some of the damage? Is there a pivot that needs to happen?

Figure out the best way forward and share it as part of your communication.

Handling your mindset

So I've shared my recommendation for handling a failure at work, in terms of learning from your mistake and managing your colleagues' perception. But what about the way you handle what's going on in your head?

Too often, we're our own worst critic and continue to beat ourselves up long after our boss or colleagues have forgotten our mistake. Here are 4 tips to get back on track when something goes wrong and your inner critic is out of control.

1. Take 5mins or 5hrs to feel sorry for yourself – even throw a tantrum – and then stop

Yep, that's right. I'm not going to tell you that the moment you find out you lost the company's largest customer or totally botched a project you shouldn't react. You're a human!

Hal Elrod has a 5 minute rule: When something bad happens, you let yourself feel ALL the emotions, but only for 5 minutes. This could mean stomping your feet, cursing or screaming into a pillow. Do it all… but only for 5 minutes. And then get back to life.

Now… I love this in principle, especially as a former sales person. BUT, I also believe it depends on the magnitude of the event or failure. Which is why I've adapted it to 5mins or 5hrs. If you lost a sale, 5 minutes will probably do. If you messed up and killed a major M&A deal that was going to make you a millionaire, you may want 5hrs!

The point is this – it's okay and even good to react and feel your feelings. But too many of us let them take over our lives. Maybe you feel angry. You can go there, but you don't want to live there.

2. Gain some perspective

Often we make a mountain out of a mole hill… or a huge mountain out of a little mountain. Things can feel like the end of the world in the moment, especially if whatever the situation was has left us feeling embarrassed or hurt others.

A great exercise to gain some perspective is this: Flash forward – will this matter if 5, 10 or 50 years?

I run a business and it's grown super quickly since I started it. In this time, we've made a lot of changes and added a lot of automation and processes, which also means, there have been lots of opportunities for things to go wrong. And things have gone wrong. Lots of times.

One thing I like to do is picture myself as an 85 year old woman sitting on my front porch and asking myself, When I look back at that point in my life, will this event even matter?

Usually the answer is a hard NO.

3. Reframe the failure

Okay, now that you've thrown yourself a quick pity party and realized this situation actually isn't the end of your career, you can begin to reframe the failure. Here's some inspiration:

It's fine to celebrate success, but more important to heed the lessons of failure. – Bill Gates

Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. – Henry Ford

Failure is success if we learn from it. – Malcolm Forbes

If we can learn from this failure, well, it's suddenly an opportunity or even a redirection towards success. So ask yourself, what did you learn from this mistake, personally and professionally? How can I make this failure worth it, by applying my learnings moving forward?

And that's the reframe. You go from dwelling on the failure to celebrating this new knowledge or redirection. The good that comes from failure is what we choose to learn from it. This is how you turn failure into success.

4. Remind yourself of the great things you've done

Even after reframing your failure, your ego may be bruised and you may be doubting yourself. This is a great time to remind yourself of your wins and accomplishments. If you have a brag sheet, pull it out and give it a read over! Remind yourself of previous wins and the positive feedback you've received.

Our mind will focus on the thoughts we repeat to it most often, so be aware of your self talk and make the intentional choice to change it if you spend a lot of time beating yourself up.

Ideally by gaining perspective and reframing your failure, you're well on your way.

Until next time friends… ✌️💜