We all suffer setbacks throughout our lives and often our future success is determined by how we respond to the disappointment. Can you bounce back, having learnt lessons, or will you sink? I asked Warwick alumna, Lisa Bove, a leadership development specialist providing executive coaching and consulting to global organisations and multi-cultural teams, for her tips.
When things go wrong Lisa suggests that you keep hold of the fact that a setback is just one event in your life, don’t lose your sense of proportion. Lisa and I agree that you do need to spend time thinking about how your actions contributed to the outcome. You might need to “let the dust settle a bit” on your emotions before you feel ready to be objective. Your contribution to what happened could be positive, negative, or a mixture of both and taking responsibility for it will help you move forward. Take the time to process what happened: depending on your personality type you might want to talk this through with others or work it out on your own. Don’t allow yourself to just pack it away and ignore it.
What have you learnt?
Can you get feedback from others on what might have gone wrong? Have the courage to seek it, you want to maximise your learning from any setback. If feedback isn’t available, try to work out what went wrong. Lisa likes to adopt a forensic, scientific approach: she seeks to gather information from different perspectives before evaluating it as a whole. I think that’s a great idea. Once you have a theory can you test it?
What could you do differently?
Think about the responses of those that were present, can you glean anything from that. What if an interview didn’t lead to a job offer? How did interviewers react to your answers? Were there some responses which they obviously liked? What distinguished those answers from others which seemed to go less well?
When we get upset about setbacks it’s because we care. It’s good to remind yourself of why it was important in the first place, remembering why it mattered helps you to press ahead with reviewing what happened more productively. Stay focused on what you really want and don’t allow yourself to be deflected from going after what is really important to you.
Be tough with yourself, be fair with yourself and then be kind to yourself. You can’t change the past, only the present and your future. Try asking yourself what action you took, what you could, or should have, done differently and then identify what you can do to ensure that the same situation doesn’t arise again.
When you ‘bounce back’, where do you bounce to?
“Don’t bounce back to where you were, now you’re wiser, take that to move forward to a different place and a new equilibrium. All learning creates change.”
It sounds obvious when Lisa says this but do we always move on after a setback? I see lots of students disappointed because job applications haven’t gone according to plan, all too often they just carry on making more and more applications repeating the same errors and continuing to meet with disappointment. They have bounced back to where they started and have not moved forward.
Have you really bounced back?
Sometimes we can be really good at looking as if we have recovered from a setback when actually we haven’t dealt with our disappointment at all. On other occasions we might be staggered at the speed of someone else’s bounce back. If a team has been impacted and some members recover more quickly than others, those who recover quickly can look as if they lack empathy. Good managers make sure that teams work together as a group analysing what happened and establishing how they are going to move forward together.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
Of course this is a cliché but Lisa is convinced there is truth in this. Those who have dealt effectively with disappointment build confidence in their ability to cope with similar situations in the future and are often very good at helping others to move forward. This can make for a very effective mentoring relationship, and sharing your concerns and disappointments with a mentor can be another way of helping you to move forwards
Don’t forget that Careers can also help you if your setback is about your job hopes. We can also give you insights into what might have gone wrong.