You’ve led your team on a challenging journey — and you’ve failed. Whether you use the word “failure” or not, whether you’re leading employees or volunteers, often there’s no hiding the situation when you try something big and don’t succeed. So now what do you do?
How do you pick up your team and move forward after a huge loss? Sports teams have to face this issue on a weekly basis — but you may not have the experience of a seasoned coach on picking up the pieces and getting back to work. Fortunately, business experts have looked at this question as well and have offered valuable tips on how to face your team after a loss and turn your attention to what’s next.
Control Your Own Emotions
The mood of a leader drastically affects the mood of the entire team. That means you have to be in control of your own emotions if you’re going to lead your team into a less negative space. Those who have been military leaders in combat realize quickly the importance of quelling their own fears, because the soldiers who are their team members take their emotional cues from the person in command. If you show that you’re not governed by fear and are still able to make smart decisions, your team members can start responding positively as well.
Let Your Team Express Their Emotions
At the same time, you need to acknowledge your team’s negative emotions and give them time to grieve what are real losses. If you try to pretend everything’s okay, your team will know you’re lying, and they’ll lose respect for you. Acknowledge disappointment and regret, and don’t force your team to get back on the horse right away. Providing a little space lets you address the problems that caused the defeat more quickly and without losing team cohesiveness.
Look to the Future With Encouragement
Take a look at that word, “Encouragement.” Right in the middle of it is the word “Courage.” And that’s what it can take to pick yourself up after a big loss and lead your team forward to (hopefully) future victories. As a leader, part of your role after a loss is to instill courage into your team for whatever lies ahead.
When you express appreciation to your team members — both individually and in public — for all their hard work and creativity, even if it resulted in a defeat, you help them summon up the strength to move forward. Avoid assigning blame in early discussions. There will be plenty of time later to determine how to avoid making mistakes. By letting your team members come up with good ideas on how to proceed going forward, you tacitly remind them of their value to the team, and they’re likely to appreciate your graciousness as a leader when you don’t hog all the good ideas for yourself.
To encourage your team to think and act courageously, you must give them the freedom to pursue excellence and to act as a team — that is, with a spirit of generosity and collaboration. By looking for the opportunities that are undoubtedly present even after a loss, you can keep your team committed to your mission and start to turn their thoughts and plans toward the future.
Last modified: April 6, 2023