Don’t Let Setbacks Sack You
This is part two of our election series we kicked off centering on themes that have surfaced at one time or another throughout the 2016 presidential election. Today’s topic takes inspiration from the various times we’ve seen the political candidates experience a setback of sorts just upon making some alleged mistake, misstep or miscommunication. I’m not going to focus on one candidate or another, nor call out specific examples. (You can probably think of your own if you’ve been following the news.) The point is, all leaders, not to mention all people, fall flat on their face at times, whether it’s something that only they and their teams know about or is an incident that’s more public in nature. If this has ever happened to you, you likely know that when we have setbacks, it can be easy for our minds to go down a rabbit hole of despair. We may momentarily think the worst of the situation, our world and even ourselves. But Disciplined Leaders learn to avoid this mind-trap or pull out of it quickly if they find themselves suddenly slipping into it. They become adept at recovering and reclaiming any lost confidence. And they reflect courage by controlling what they can, taking appropriate action, learning from lessons and recognizing when to move on.
When it comes to dealing with a setback, here are some points to remember:
Setbacks happen. No one is perfect. Everyone fails or falls short at times. Yet if you’re like many leaders who tend to excel in life and work, you may find yourself being very self-critical of your mistakes, replaying scenes in your mind or inwardly “beating” yourself up for your innate flaws. This doesn’t do anyone any good, most of all you. While taking responsibility for your actions and shortcomings is a healthy, courageous and expected leadership practice, dwelling on what’s not prefect about you or what you’ve done wrong is unproductive and reflects poor emotional intelligence. It can hold you back as you try to make progress through these lessons, stifle self-esteem, and keep you stuck in countless other ways. So flip that train of thought and develop a more productive, forward-thinking mindset. See setbacks as golden opportunities to learn and grow as a leader.
Forgive yourself. If you’re struggling to adopt a forward-focused mindset, it could be that you’re really struggling with self-forgiveness. For example, if you’re telling people you’re over it but still find yourself perseverating on how you could have done things better or differently, you’ll never fully make the emotional progress that’s required to fully move toward your potential as a Disciplined Leader. As we talk about in MAP’s book, “The Disciplined Leader,” self-forgiveness is a conscientious choice. And as author, public speaker, and physician Deepak Chopra says, “Even if you have no religious faith at all, the key to forgiving yourself remains the same: you must believe you are forgiven.” Whether you pray, meditate or practice affirmations like “I am a capable leader,” do something to empower and reinforce your self-forgiveness. If helpful, make it a daily practice. And don’t forget to be patient. Self-forgiveness isn’t always a one-off sort of thing. It can be a process that takes some time. Accept and be OK with that.
Practice damage control. Sometimes when leaders experience a setback, they make things worse than they have to be. Perhaps they go on a rampage, off-loading blame from themselves and onto others. Or maybe they retreat and become highly introverted or guarded, or fail to provide necessary transparency or facts around the issue at hand. Courageous, highly ethical leaders recognize that hurting others, hiding behind walls, playing games, and doing other kinds of damaging activities undermine their leadership credibility, respect and the ability to achieve goals and results. So when facing a setback yourself, always strive to take responsibility for your share of any problems or messes, avoiding anything that will harm your team, your organization, or your own leadership impact going forward. Before speaking or taking action, carefully consider the impacts of your choices, making every attempt to not rashly react but to carefully respond, knowing the latter will likely work out for the best. And if you find you need resources to help you keep things from getting out of hand in the midst of a setback, invest in those necessities or ask your people to help you come up with solutions to address the situation at hand. Their capacity for creativity and desire to help just might surprise you and be the very things you need to problem-solve any setbacks and get you back on track, working toward and achieving your goals.
How do you keep organization-wide setbacks from crushing the morale of your people?