leadership incorporated blog

August 16, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: How To Turn Business Losses Into Wins

This week I heard the loser in a recent congressional race interviewed on the radio. As the numbers came in and it became clear he was going to lose, he received a call from former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton told him that the way he handled this loss would decide the rest of his political career. If he moped and was bitter or negative, people would feel justified in not having voted for him.

So instead, this candidate went out and, as he put it, “acted as if he’d won.” He thanked everyone profusely. He was positive and gracious. He focused on what had worked and not on what hadn’t.

You don’t have to be a fan of Clinton to see that this thinking applies to your business, as well. Whether and how people — your staff, your clients, your peers, your supervisors, your associates — will follow your lead, will trust you, and sometimes whether or not you will get a second chance, depends on how you respond when you lose; what you do when you are faced with challenges and problems and failure.

Whether you are leading an organization, in middle management or searching for your next job opportunity…

Here are some tips on how to win even as you’re losing:

Play the long game. Know that success often looks like failure from the middle. Don’t quit in the middle.

See failures as part of the process. Expect it. Perhaps more important, stop expecting not to fail. Things will always go wrong. So what?

Embrace failures as a learning experience. If you’re not failing occasionally it means you’re not taking risks. Which means you’re only doing what you’ve always done and not moving forward. Forward movement and change are essential to long-term success. So are failures.

Make failures part of your plan. And plan for what you will do when you fail. Know how you will respond now to failures you haven’t even imagined yet. Although this may sound counter-intuitive, there is almost no failure you could experience that others haven’t experienced before you. You can have a strategy in place for what you will do when the “unexpected” happens. And that will make all the difference.

Stay in the flow. Don’t stop to fight reality. Reality wins, but only every time. The clue to help you notice when  you’re fighting reality is feeling stuck. Accept your interim setbacks and look for their message for you to inspire your next move.

Associate failures with success. Some people choose to use failure as an excuse to stop trying or to shoot lower. Guess what? You can choose to use failure to learn how to do it better and keep aiming higher. That’s what the spectacularly successful people in our world have done. Click here for an incomplete list of successful people who’ve filed for bankruptcy — some over and over again.

Help those around you to embrace failures. Encourage people around you to take sane risks, find the learning and keep moving forward.

Keep your focus on the now with an eye to what’s next. Look back just long enough to get the lessons. Stay grounded in the present, with your eyes to the future.

If you keep learning in the present and stay firmly committed to winning in the long run, success is the only possible outcome.

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