4 Things You Must Do When You Fail (Not If, But When…)

What goes up must come down, right? We just don’t want to be the ones “it” comes down on.

But as much as we try to avoid it, failure happens.

That massive campaign wasn’t executed properly. Or maybe you bombed your presentation. Perhaps you’re the one who dropped the ball and missed deadline on that team project.

Whatever the circumstance is—big or small—failure is going to happen. So instead of living as a paranoid perfectionist trying to escape the inevitable, prepare yourself with the four things to do when that time comes.

  1. Accept it.
    This isn’t the time to make excuses and point fingers. You messed up. Own it. If apologies are in order, give one (or two… or three). The sooner you take responsibility for your shortcomings, the sooner you’ll be on your way to making this mistake a thing of the past.
  1. Learn from it.
    After you realize that you failed, analyze how so that you don’t do it again. Should you have set a reminder on your calendar? Maybe you realized a weakness in your teammate and won’t assign them to certain tasks anymore. Either way, mistakes will happen. But as the saying goes, “You can’t make the same mistake twice. The second time you make it, it’s a choice.” Equip yourself with the information to not become a repeat offender.
  1. Move on.
    Don’t be a prisoner to your mistake for too long. That will just foster unnecessary guilt and pressure inside of you. You may have had to ask for forgiveness in the “accept it” stage, but you really need to forgive yourself also. Let it go, and don’t be so hard on yourself. Life is a learning experience, so add this one to your “experience bank” and keep on striving for greatness.
  1. Share it.
    This is the step that separates leaders from mere managers. Now that you’ve been through a failure, pass on the knowledge to someone else that needs it to prevent that person from making the same wrong move. As a leader, it shows that you’re open about your experiences and you care about the well-being of others. Only an immature person in a position of power would sit back and internally snicker in hopes that someone else will make the same mistake.

“The only failures are those who fail to try.” – Lester Pearson

Failing doesn’t make you a failure. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes—just know how to deal with them appropriately when they happen.

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

6 responses

  1. This is great advice Hope.

    It seemed like I had a big difference in results when “I knew my way was best” vs
    “I did my best and it may not always succeed!”

    When I took “myself” out of the picture and admitted there were weaknesses in my plans the long term results were so much better.

    And like the Lester Pearson quote, I have heard that “…the only people who do not fail are the ones who do nothing!…”

    1. Thanks, Charles.

      And you’re so right! If we all take “self” out the picture, things will go smoother; but that’s easier said than done. HA!

  2. This reminds me of the Zig Ziglar quotation, “Failure is an event, not a person. Yesterday really did end last night.” In a job interview, I like to ask the candidate to tell me something they learned from a failure or a mistake. I value my staff viewing failures as learning opportunities, rather than something to conceal from their supervisor.

    Great blog post, Hope.

    1. Thank you, Joseph. You provided some great quotes and insight!

  3. Mary Grace Barbye | Reply

    This is a great one!

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