As leaders, our job is to make winners. But making winners good losers is an equally good idea!
Making good losers of winners? That makes no sense! Winners win, losers lose! We make winners of losers, not the other way round! That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But winners are only angels, not gods. They’re not perfect and, every now and then, they make mistakes and fall from grace. These fallen angels need appropriate assistance or they could become demons in the workplace – and their home.
So, as much as it is important to teach people to win, it is equally important to teach them to lose – gracefully.
Our high performers are usually ‘Type – A’ personalities. Ambitious, very high on success and acutely conscious of their status in the organization. Failure is not an option in the fast lane of top performance. But, the higher the climb, the harder the fall. It’s noisy, painful, debilitating and often pulls the individual down into depths they didn’t think existed – professionally and personally.
Add on the professional ostracism, and the picture is complete!
Imagine this: Blue-eyed boy, always gobbling up carrots, now having to taste the stick he had all but lost sight of. Once praised and patted on the back, now rapped on the knuckles and ignored. Once respected and powerful, now suddenly in the doghouse. Alone. With everyone he’d ever stepped over, gunning for payback.
They say, when a person is going downhill, everything gets greased for the journey!
For highly successful individuals, encountering failure is very, very trying and humiliating. Suddenly hated, with all the past successes and wins counting for nothing. Forgotten in a frenzy of negativity.
Here are 7 things fallen angels can do to get their wings back:
1. Admit: Confront the failure: ‘Yes I failed’ is something we rarely hear in the workplace. No surprise. Admitting is probably the most difficult thing of all. And the extent of difficulty is directly proportional to the individual’s seniority. The bigger the role, the more inflated the ego! But admitting failure is the first step to success and it’s got to be done, soon.
2. Lie low for a bit: The good news is that people have short memories. The others move on. Dust will invariably settle and it will be business as usual. Lying low gives time for the limelight to shift to another focus area. Lying low also creates the time to heal—for the individual and the organization along with planning a re-entry strategy.
3. Introspect: Analyze—what went wrong, what could/should have been done, what can be done now? An honest self-analysis is a personal brainstorming session. It helps in understanding the situation, determines the learnings and also charts out a roadmap to come out of the problem.
4. Apologize: ‘Sorry doesn’t make a dead man alive’ goes the old saying. But it sure makes everyone feel better! People think better of those who admit to a failure and apologize. So, sorry does work… but only once, max, twice. Making a habit of apologizing means making a habit of failing.
5. Give that sweetie: To those at the receiving end of the failure, an apology is usually incomplete unless accompanied by some retribution. The offender needs to pay — in some manner. Penance is the nicer sister of revenge — in the mind of the offended! When failing to serve the customer, many organizations have elaborate processes to save the customer by offering a sweetie of some sort. A discount, a freebie… just so the customer feels satisfied enough not to avenge the affront by going off to competition! Recovery has a cost but it’s worth the investment!
6. Don’t give up!: Not giving up may not assure instant success. Giving up, however, guarantees failure! Get up, dust those bruised knees, chin up and get back to work. Easier said than done. We humans are just too emotional! At the drop of a hat, we go into depression – funding a vast army of therapists! But nothing works like the power of individual will…
7. Second is good too, by the way!: Believing those who insist that first place is the only goal is a bad – and often expensive – idea! Remember the car rental company that publicized the fact that they were second best because ‘we try harder. Or else!’. Being the underdog sometimes has its benefits!
As leaders, we know that no one is perfect – individuals, organizations, we ourselves. Instead of ostracizing a failed performer, offering a balanced outlook helps fallen angels start flying again. This time a wiser, more careful and better person who will fly even higher.
Ostracism, will also – eventually – yield the same results, but by then, the person may have joined competition…