“Practice Makes Perfect” Applies to Failing, Too

In business and in leadership, you win some and you lose some. The reality is, at the executive level where you’re outnumbered by moving parts and pieces, you’re bound to face your fair share of mistakes. Since failing is a part of leadership, the best way to be prepared for it is to know how to handle it ahead of time, and put those tips directly into practice.

Handle failure better with the following guidelines for leaders created by Arden Coaching.

Take Ownership

A seemingly simple, yet very important part of dealing with the consequences of failing is taking ownership of the mistake.

When a deadline slips away or an important point is missed, it’s easy to instantly go into a blame-game mindset. But, in the aftermath of an error or mix-up, blaming doesn’t move things forward, especially when tension on your team may already be high.

Don’t blame others or even necessarily get down on yourself. Be honest, take ownership of the mistake, and promptly notify others who will be impacted by its outcomes.

Apologize Powerfully

Saying sorry and being sorry are two totally different concepts. When you do apologize to the other person or your team as a whole, make sure they feel you’re truly sorry.

Think about how you’d want to be spoken to if a friend or spouse broke a promise or dropped the ball. You wouldn’t accept an apology by email or an offhanded explanation by the water cooler, would you?

Apologizing powerfully means taking time out of your day to meet with the other party, explaining what happened, and taking responsibility. Say sorry with authenticity and give them the time and space they need to respond.

Make a Plan and Stick to It

People need to know what’s going to change on your end to move forward from a mistake that impacted them. Consider these questions to formulate a plan:

  • What will you do differently right now?
  • What will you do differently in the future to prevent similar mistakes like this from happening again?
  • Is there anything the other party needs to do or be mindful of to accommodate the change?

Be as specific as possible in terms of how you’re going to do better next time. And then, most importantly, make sure you keep your word!

Failure Is an Opportunity for Improvement

Like riding a bike, rising from failing is a skill that takes practice. When you master taking responsibility for your actions, genuinely conveying your feelings, and making a realistic plan for improvement, rising from failing can help build trust with others and even improve your relationships and overall confidence.


Thanks for reading this post! Leaders get back up with purpose and poise after failing, and we hope these tips have given you good direction for handling your own difficult business rebound. For more guides for leaders like this one, check out the Leadership category of the Arden Coaching blog. Happy reading!