CHICAGO–What are the best ways to deal with an unexpected, frustrating setback that may happen to you or your team at work?
Karin Hurt has some ideas and suggestions for dealing with those scenarios. Hurt is the founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, which helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, and a former Verizon Wireless exec who has authored several books, including, “Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul.”
“Chances are you didn’t ‘deserve’ this thing that happened to you. Tides shifted that you couldn’t have predicted or controlled, but there you were. Frustrated. Sad. Ticked off. Worried. And feeling stuck,” wrote Karin Hurt on LetsGrowLeaders.com. “To be perfectly honest, we’re in the midst of a pretty frustrating setback ourselves. In business, setbacks can be contagious.”
What leaders must do, continued Hurt, is move on and ask themselves this question: “And then what happened?”
“Nine times out of ten, when I ask this question, the answer goes something like this,” shared Hurt, saying the responses are typically like these”
- “Well when X happened, I felt like it was the end of the world, but it turns out that closed door led me to what I’m doing today, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
- “Losing that job was a blessing in disguise.”
- “Losing that contract made us take a really hard look at our business model. We needed to diversify. After that wake-up call our business has quadrupled.”
Questions to Ask
Hurt recommends the next time you or your team has to deal with an unexpected and frustrating setback, they should instead ask themselves these questions:
What am I Feeling?
“If you’re anything like me it’s really, really tempting to skip past this phase. After all, leaders are strong. Great entrepreneurs are resilient. Setbacks are par for the course. Suck it up buttercup,” said Hurt. “But here’s the deal. You are feeling something, and pretending you’re above all that is BS. You might be fooling everyone else, but deep down you know the truth.”
Hurt said she has never seen the “suck it up” strategy work for motivated teams when something real is going on, citing a New York Times article that had stated, “It’s …true we can’t change what we don’t notice. Denying or avoiding feelings doesn’t make them go away, nor does it lessen their impact on us, even if it’s unconscious. Noticing and naming emotions gives us the chance to take a step back and make choices about what to do with them.”
How Have I Overcome Setbacks Before?
The best way to regain confidence is to recall other times you overcame seemingly insurmountable setbacks, said Hurt.
What Have I Learned?
If things are totally outside of your control, the real truth may be “nothing,” observed Hurt. “Resiliency is hardly ever about returning to the original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched. Chances are that original form had something to do with current predicament. It’s about gathering up the lessons and energy from the potentially crippling scene, and emerging stronger, wiser… knowing you have the fortitude to recover the next time. There’s always a next time.”
Where’s the Good News in This Story?
“I get that this sounds crazy when you’re on the steep decline of the emotional rollercoaster, but I promise you just this last week I had three leaders confide the glimmer of good news they saw in their bad news,” said Hurt.
The three pieces of good news shared included:
- “The timing is terrible to lose these guys headed into our busy season, but the truth is this gives us a real opportunity to upgrade our leadership bench for long-term viability.”
- “Losing this deal sucks, but they would have been a very difficult client to work with.”
- “This project exposed some system vulnerabilities we didn’t know we had. Better to know so we can get them fixed.”
How Can We?
Given the need to switch the mindset to moving on, Hurt said the next question to ask is “How can we make the situation better?”
“Invite your team to brainstorm as many ‘How can we?’ questions as possible for the problem at hand,” said Hurt. “If you’re short on time, you can even assign this as homework and have team members come with a list of ‘How can we?’ questions to the next meeting. Gather all the questions on a whiteboard or easel sheets around the room.
“The ability to rebound from setbacks and to help your team get through tough times is so vital for long-term success as a leader,” continued Hurt. “If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or even a bit ticked off, it’s okay. Take a breath. And then consider your next best question and action.”