When you’re starting or growing your company, you’ll face lots of challenges and unfortunately realize failures more often than you’d like. One of the hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs is that they routinely overcome these obstacles.
To do the same, follow these six steps to respond to failures:
1) Admit the mistake. Knowing the true cause of a failure is the first step to overcoming it, after acknowledging that there’s a problem or failure in the first place. Leaders who practice denial might feel better about themselves temporarily, but nothing gets done to make things better. Face it-no one wants to admit they messed up and it’s hard to accept when something’s just not working anymore.
2) Be kind to yourself – Even if you directly caused the failure, remember that it’s a matter of your actions and their results-not from some personal defect. It’s not always about you! Try to separate yourself from the problem and look at it objectively.
3) Talk it through with someone who can offer insight or support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Again, asking for help does not mean you’re not good enough. It means you’re committed to achieving outcomes without letting ego get in your way.
4) Find out what you can learn from the failure. The odds are you did things that worked and things that didn’t. Examine them and the reasons why they worked or didn’t. What you learn here will form the assumptions you’ll rely on when making a plan of action in the following steps.
5) Attack, not shrink – When people run into financial problems or serious crises, they usually go in one of two directions. They can shrink back, become more risk-averse, and try to cut expenses and do less to avoid the problem. It’s basically cowering and hiding. Or they can attack the problem like a foreign army invading enemy territory. Which strategy do you think has won more wars?
6) Make a new plan and move forward. Thinking about the past is helpful-for the purpose of learning from it. But ruminating and dwelling in the past, reliving your mistakes and thinking about how things could and should have turned out differently just isn’t productive.
It’s time to think about the future! Take what you learned from the failure and apply it to a new or revised plan towards the same goal. Look at the bright side-you now have more information and knowledge than you did making your last plan! This should give you a little more confidence, knowing your odds are better this time. This is the same mindset that Thomas Edison had when he said, after years of trying to create a light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
So rather than reacting negatively to failures and problems when they occur, or getting stressed out about what happened (as if you’re somehow exempt, unlike all the other entrepreneurs throughout history), learn how to react productively instead.
Guard your thoughts and mind with the same diligence as you would protect your assets and follow your plan. Allowing negative thinking and fear to creep in will cloud your vision, lead to less effective plans, and will short-circuit your ability to remain consistent and motivated.
On the other hand, if you form the habit of failing forward (productively), then nothing will be able to permanently stand in your way of success. The choice is yours.