Executive Resilience: How Do You Handle Loss?

How do you react to failure? Ask any smart person working in a managerial position and you’ll get some interesting answers.

Of course, it depends on the size of the failure, and how much error is your direct responsibility. But let’s talk about executive resilience and what it takes to sustain a long term successful career. Failures – little ones and even big ones – are an inevitable part of life and work, and determines a winner or a loser.

The big difference between a winner and a loser is how they handle losing. Ask anyone with whom you have a close, trusting relationship – your coach, mentor, adviser. We’ve all had slips and slides. The key factor in high achievement is the ability to bounce back from the low points. Resilience is a key leadership trait.

Winners face the same problems as losers, they just respond differently. So the key isn’t how to avoid mistakes (ain’t gonna happen), but being prepared for them.

Here are some of the behaviors that are counterproductive in the face of loss, according to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of Confidence:

  • Panicking and throwing out the game plan
  • Scrambling for self-protection, abandoning the rest of the team
  • Hiding the facts and hoping that things will get better before anyone notices
  • Denying there is anything to learn or change
  • Using decline as an excuse to let facilities or investments deteriorate

However, says Kanter, high performers create a culture and support system that helps them avoid these temptations.

  • They put troubles into perspectives because they are ready for them
  • They rehearse through practice and preparation to anticipate problems
  • They remain disciplined and professional
  • They put facts on the table and review what’s wrong
  • They shore up strengths and pinpoint weaknesses
  • They encourage personal accountability for actions
  • They stress collaboration and teamwork through common goals and commitment to a vision
  • They support team members so when someone drops the ball, someone else is there to pick it up
  • They encourage mentoring to bring out the best performance in everyone.
  • They favor innovation through dialogue and brainstorming

Kantor summarizes that the best way to acquire a winner’s attitude is to build the cornerstones of confidence: accountability, collaboration and initiative.

No one can avoid downturns. Performance under pressure includes the ability to stay calm, learn, adapt and keep on going. It separates the winners from the losers.

Think about it: how have you handled losses in your career?

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