Katriina Tahka
April 10, 2023
Employee Engagement, Leadership

Being Strengths-Based in Dealing with Failure

Dealing with Failure like a Superhero

Everybody fails; even the greats!

Madonna taking a tumble during a recent live performance proved that even the most well rehearsed events can go horribly wrong. A wardrobe malfunction saw Madonna pulled down a staircase, crash land on her back, and end up with whiplash. It wasn’t easy to watch but within seconds social media was abuzz with horrifying comments like ‘watching a pensioner fall down stairs’ and it being the ‘funniest thing on TV’.

What she did next was most astounding. She stood up, untangled herself, got back up on stage and got on with the show. Among all of the negative comments about her age, ‘it’ factor, singing ability, relevance and even bone density, she managed to pick herself up and keep going.

Lightbulb_Only This got me thinking about what happens to us when we fail in front of others. Do you respond by throwing in the towel and walking away? Sulking about it to others? Blaming others? Going into hiding?

Or do you admit that it was an accident, dust yourself off and continue?

The reality is that we all have moments that don’t go to plan from time to time. I have had my fair share of sink or swim moments in the past. My epic fail moment was sending a cranky email complaining about a co-worker directly to them instead of my valued confidante – #fail!  I picked up the phone, called the co-worker, explained what I had done and suggested we meet to discuss it. I owned it and it was one of the hardest conversations of my life because I know it really hurt them. My mistake fractured the relationship, but my actions meant we were still able to work together professionally. I would also throw in a little joke every now and then to relieve any tension.

As an HR professional I see people make mistakes like this all the time. Instead of owning it, many dig themselves even deeper by acting out against their own embarrassment or disappointment. It’s so awkward watching someone nose dive into the ground; because you know they’ll have a hard time recovering from it.

So how do you avoid being a victim, running and hiding, or playing the blame game? How do you dust yourself off? Here are my five practical, strengths-based “dos” and five practical, strengths-based “don’ts” to bring perspective when you’re faced with failure.

The more we practice these considerations, our resilience becomes stronger and faster.

Dealing With Failure Dos   Dealing With Failure Don’ts
1. What’s the worst that could happen?   1. Be a victim.
Lightbulb_Bottom Get some perspective because these aren’t world-ending situations. You made a mistake and will recover in time.   Lightbulb_Bottom  Because being a victim attempts to abdicate responsibility, and that never looks good; people can see right through it.
2. Own it.   2. Beat yourself up.
Lightbulb_Bottom It’s your mistake so you must stand in    Lightbulb_Bottom You’re not going to win at everything.
it and take responsibility.    
3. Poke a little fun at yourself.   3. Run and hide!
Lightbulb_Bottom Sometimes it’s a good idea to laugh at yourself; it can relieve tension.   Lightbulb_BottomNothing surprises people more than when you dust yourself off and get back 
    to business.
4. Look for the positives.   4. Play the blame game.
Lightbulb_Bottom There are always benefits to be found in every situation, we just need to look   Lightbulb_Bottom It’s far too easy to blame others. It takes more courage to own up to it.
hard enough to find them.    
5. Learn from it.   5. Get angry and argue.
 One of the many things we fail to do in situations like these is to learn from our mistakes because we’re too embarrassed    Lightbulb_Bottom As much as you want to fight your battle, sometimes it’s just as easy to zip your lip, cop it on the chin, and move on.
and want to move on ASAP.    

Being resilient helps us bounce back when adversity is present. It gives us the ability to gain perspective of the environment we’re living in by assessing our physical environment (‘Am I physically injured?’ ‘Am I physically safe?’), emotions (‘Can I laugh?’ ‘Do I feel angry?’), and mental resilience (‘Do I believe the story I am telling myself?’). These elements make up how we respond in situations such as Madonna did. 

The more we spend time on gaining perspective about the situation, the quicker we bounce back when life throws us a lemon. 

I’d love to hear from you: what are the strategies you use when you trip over?

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