[Author's Note: This is an updated repost of an article from 2009 that I think is a point most people often ignore at their own peril. G]
What do you do with the failures? Do you distance yourself from your failures as fast as possible? Work to forget about the deal that fell through? Avoid discussing mistakes you made that cost you business or a project?
Most people flee in some way (or start the finger pointing at everyone but themselves). It is often one of the classic, instinctive “fight or flight” responses. If that is not you, then you know the type. Unfortunately, when either happens, the opportunity to learn is missed.
We’ve all heard that experience is one of the greatest teachers. I submit that failure experiences are only a great teacher if you understand and use what happened.
Ego and self-esteem issues are what prevent most people from taking a failure, looking at it from different perspectives, considering the other options available at the time and understanding what role they played in the process. Those who learn “how to learn” from failures put themselves ahead of the pack over time.
To learn from your failures, and you successes too, here are some great things to consider the next time you have a project, meeting, sales call, negotiation or interview (whether it fails or succeeds):
* What did everyone else see/hear? Was it different than what I saw/heard?
* Was I interesting to anyone besides myself? Why? How could you tell? Are you sure?
* Was the deal or project set to fail from the beginning? (If so, why were you still playing along?)
* In retrospect, what did I miss?
* In retrospect, what did I misunderstand?
* Did I waste everyone’s time, including my own?
* Was I properly prepared? Really?
* Did I listen enough? Did I listen more than I talked?
* Did I really understand the customer’s “pain” (price, scope, location, effort, family, color, service, something else)?
* Did I project my feelings instead of honestly understanding the feelings of the others?
* What will I do different next time based on this experience?
I am sure you have more great questions for yourself, so just consider this a suggestion list.
Failure can be tough if you don’t know how to deal with it or how to use it as an opportunity to gain valuable experience to use later. What do you do with the failures? Fight, flight, or learn?
Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,www.nerdtoenglish.com, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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