Sunday, April 1, 2012

How do I recover from a defeat?

I had a talk this week with a very effective leader and great person who was struggling with a series of failures.  He told me his was "off his game".  He said, "I am not used to failing.  I hate this feeling.  How do good leaders deal with failure?"

Here's the short answer and then a story to prove it works.

How do you deal with failure?  First - understand why you failed and then get to work fixing the problem.

I wrote this blog last year in April about golfer Rory McIlroy's meltdown at the Masters.

The value of experience is expressed in many ways – “learning to win”, “failing forward”, “putting in you time”, etc….  They are all true – you must earn your experience.  It has been said that you learn more in failure than in success.  I am not sure if this is true in all circumstances, but as I observed how Irish golfer Rory McIlroy conducted himself after he lost his confidence, then his ability to make par, the finally the lead, which he had held for 63 of the 72 holes of the most prestigious golf tournament in the world – I believe McIlroy did learn something important in his failure; his process is an example for us all.

McIlroy took full responsibility for his failures.  He understood the issues; he made no excuses.  Here are some of his quotes:

“I didn’t handle the pressure particularly well.  It was my first time in that position and hopefully I will do better next time.”

“I lost it for three holes and couldn’t recover my confidence after that.”

“I am terribly disappointed right now and it will be hard for a few days but I will get over it.” 

“I’m 21 – hopefully I will learn from my mistakes and bee better prepared the next time.”

McIlroy was poised, confident, and available in defeat.  He will be back and he will win major golf tournaments because he has the temperament, talent, and personal accountability to really learn from this experience.  His ownership of the situation will accelerate his personal growth. 

Failure is part of life.

Failure is a natural part of pushing the envelope.

Elite performers will be beaten at times by other elite performers.

Failure is part of experimentation, learning, and gaining new knowledge.

You will grow after you fail based upon the following personal variables:

1) Your ability and awareness to see your part in the failure.
2) Your level of ownership for your part in the situation or issue.
3) Your ability and willingness to identify a problem you have that you can solve.
4) Your ability and willingness to change.
5) Your commitment to work to be better.
6) Your confidence and belief that you will succeed.  (Your belief the goal is worth your sacrifices to transform.)
7) Your confidence and capability gained from your personal transformation to execute your plan and reach your goals at the next opportunity.

Rory McIlroy learned from his failure.  He put in the work necessary for personal growth.  His work has paid off; he has been ranked the number one or two golfer in the world over most of the past year.

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