My team recently suffered what feels like a huge failure, how can we over come this and bounce back?
No one likes to fail. And while we all know we are meant to learn from mistakes, individuals and teams can struggle to bounce back from big blunders. Whether it was a project that didn’t meet its targets or a missed deadline.
It’s often harder to lead a team past a failure than it is one person. People enter projects with different expectations, perspectives and levels of investment. Some may be very resilient and others might take failure more personally. It doesn’t matter whether one person on your team is at fault or if everyone bears some of the responsibility, it’s your job as the manager to help the entire group move on. Here’s how.
Take control of your emotions?
Research shows that a leader’s feelings are far more contagious than a team member’s. So, while you don’t want to suppress your emotions, you don’t want to get stuck in a, negative space either. Do whatever you need to move on from disappointment so that you’re ready to help your team deal with theirs. And don’t fake it. You need to be genuinely in control of your feelings or your team will see through you.
Give them space
At the same time, you shouldn’t become a “beacon of positivity” before the team is ready, Ii’s okay to let everyone wallow for a little while. Negative or neutral emotions are encourage logical reasoning, which means they can help your team more effectively process and analyse the failure. When you acknowledge the disappointment with comments like “We’re feeling down” or “This is tough for us”, you’re not stroking people’s emotions, but facilitating an honest evaluation of a situation.
Be clear about what went wrong
Don’t sugar coat what happened or resort to corporate lingo that abdicates responsibility. Instead, be clear: “We missed the deadline because we didn’t take into account how long each task would take.” When you focus on the facts, you can call it like it is without being demotivating.
Don’t point fingers
It’s more important to focus on what’s to blame, rather than who is to blame. If the fault really does lie with one or a few people, then talk to those individuals in private and focus on their actions, not character. Say something like: “Here’s the mistake you made. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person, but we need to understand why so it doesn’t happen again and we can move on.” You can also address the group but be sure to do it in a way that doesn’t single anyone out.
Shift the mood?
At some point, it’s important to move on from analysing the failure to talking about what comes next. The mutual commiserating and examination of what went wrong is useful only up to a point. After a day or two (or maybe longer if the failure was a biggie), push your team to more strategic, open-minded thinking and discuss how you will avoid similar mistakes in the future. Call a meeting and make sure that the tone is positive and energised.
Tell a story?
You can help everyone begin to see the experience as a learning by telling them about a mistake you’ve made in the past. It can be very powerful when a leader authentically shares a time when they have a crucible-type failure that became a stepping-stone in their career.
Have a conversation about the lessons learned from this experience. Don’t lecture; discuss. Divide the team up into two groups: one half thinks through what could go wrong in future projects while the other half focuses on the positive: what the team can change going forward. It’s important to focus more on solutions than problems, think of the future not the past.
That’s the WHAT and WHY. For the HOW, contact [email protected].
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