The overachiever’s guide to overcoming failure
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
Who gets everything right on the first try? If we are honest about it, many of our successes are built on a pile of mistakes and failures. And although failure has made its way into acceptable business vernacular — fail fast, fail often! — we are not naturally inclined to discuss our mistakes, let alone spend time creating a system to support, encourage or work through those missteps.
So, whether it's blowing a big presentation, losing our cool at a meeting or making mistakes on our work, here is the overachiever's guide to working through those inevitable, pesky missteps.
Hug it out
Not literally, of course, but an important step in the process of working through failure is to embrace it. Accountability and ownership are well-worn management terms, and at this point most of us are practiced at talking the talk.
But there is more to it than that. We must honestly look at the mistake and ask: How bad is it really? Do we fail in this manner all the time? Was it an isolated incident? Was there anything good about what we did? By realistically assessing the issue, we will be better prepared to address it and let it go.
Unfortunately, overachievers rarely give themselves enough leeway to allow for anything but perfection. This is a flawed model. So, if it is too tough to cut yourself some slack, ask yourself: What would I do if my colleague or team member did the same thing? Get a little perspective and give yourself a hug instead of beating yourself up over it.
Once we embrace the mistake and honestly assess the scope and impact, it is time to take the next step and address it. Again, there is a complementary question to keep in mind while working through how we address it: How will we move on? Or in overachiever terms: How can we turn this into a win?
For example, after making mistakes on a project, addressing it often occurs naturally and with little effort (i.e., our boss shows up and tells us to fix it). As we fix it, we must consider what we are learning from the process and how that will result in an improved product next time.
With the corrected work and a list of lessons learned, close the loop and move on by connecting with the boss and ensuring her expectations were met. Discuss how it will be better next time and get her to acknowledge that you are out of the dog house. Then, add it to your resume as proof of how you can successfully face challenges and work through failures.
Regardless of how successful we are, we have failed a lot on the way. That is expected and it will continue. Just own it, accept it, address it, make it a win and go back to overachieving.
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