How Do You Get Over Failure?

I recently read the NY Times best seller, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin. 

The key characters in the story are gamers who create video games, but the main focus of the book is on the relationship they have with each other.

The important point I got out of this 400-page book was about how we think about failure.

At first, the two main characters have great success in developing their first game but over time their success rate is spotty. Those who purchase these games even call them out on how bad some of these games are.

This led to the best part of the book in which the author talks about public failure and failing in private.

We all make mistakes but how many of us tell others? 

If they are minor ones, we may suffer in silence and realize that these are the learning lessons of life. We may also seek counsel from a close-knit group of confidantes to get their perspective.

But what happens when one fails in a more public setting?

As leaders, it could be a monumental catastrophe, including product recalls, bad customer service, etc.

It could be also a lack of self-awareness on the part of the leader who says or does inappropriate things which not only affect their reputation but that of their company and their staff.

Whatever it may be, how does one overcome this? 

As we know, some go into hiding (i.e. Matt Lauer) while we can name many others who get defensive and try to justify their actions.

The best course of action is admitting what happened and asking for forgiveness but that is easier said than done.

Arrogance, insecurity, and even possibly greed deter some from acting in the appropriate manner.

The bigger issue is for the people who work for these people.

How do you handle this? Do you start preparing your resume and look for another job?

Do you confront the leader? Or do you just accept that this is the way they are?

All three options don’t solve the bigger issue; the leader is the role model for the company! 

How do we expect others, especially the Gen Zs, to behave appropriately when their leaders are not?

How do we teach/guide them how to overcome obstacles and not make them again? 

In the past, they may have had their parents, etc. step in and solve their problems but now in the corporate world, it is up to leaders to empower their staff to be accountable for their actions.

I am not suggesting playing parent but instead be firm and direct with them while also getting them to develop their own solutions and not be defensive.

One thought is to discuss a minor problem the staff member had dealt with in the past and remind them that they will get through this new situation too.

Not to keep dwelling on it, but periodically check in with them to see how they are feeling about their failure now that time has passed.

Hopefully through discussions and introspection, they will feel better and learn from it.

What the leader needs to avoid doing is telling them HOW to deal with it. Let them try it out in their own way first, and the leader should not be judgmental.

When we try to solve others’ problems, we are viewing them from our lens and that may not be the best course of action.

The other benefit of doing it this way is that the leader may actually learn something from them too.