Managing Setbacks
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

It is so hard to be a leader today.  Really – it is more difficult than ever.  Why? We must live with ever-rising expectations for excellence – and we have social media to quickly communicate and give voice to those who point out our setbacks.  A bad or difficult decision handled poorly can result in a largely negative impact on the business and the lives of everyone in the organization.  The risks have never been greater for leaders to make a mistake.  And this is a big problem.  Let me explain why.

This a big problem because it can encourage leaders to become overly cautious and unwilling to take necessary risks.  It can prevent leaders from dealing with critical issues because they are afraid to “get it wrong” and have it go “viral” and hurt those involved.  Risk taking is more of what we need – and yet – it offers the possibility of efforts going wrong.  So how do we deal with this important situation?

We need leaders to be courageous – and humble.  We must have leaders throughout our organizations that are willing to take risks and be creative.  Doing it the way we have always done it in the hopes of avoiding mistakes will not work.  So, we move forward, take risks, and sometimes get it wrong.  When we do, we must be humble enough to admit our mistakes, take corrective action, and get back to taking risks.  This process will happen again and again.  Not getting it entirely right is a part of every search for excellence.

There will be times that we will need to backtrack. We will need to apologize.  We were trying our best – but it didn’t go well.  We will need to have the grace to accept this in ourselves and in others.  If we do so, we can create a culture of risk-taking that helps us effectively thrive in today’s fast-paced economy.

Some of the best leadership efforts I have witnessed have come after mistakes or setbacks have occurred.  A leader’s true strengths can be seen when they must act to overcome a situation that is uncomfortable and not easily solved.  This is why humility and perseverance are so important. Risks must be taken and setbacks will occur. How we handle them is so important to our success as leaders.

How are you at dealing with mistakes or setbacks?  Do you readily admit when they occur so corrective action can be taken?  Do you encourage others to admit mistakes and take corrective action?  These are important questions for us as leaders.  When we effectively and gracefully deal with setbacks we set an example of how to manage risks to be successful.