Disappointments are a common feature in the business world. While you’ll have successes, you’ll also experience a good share of disappointments. That, however, isn’t the challenge. It’s how you react and handle the disappointment that’s of importance. The obvious knee-jerk reaction is to rage with anger, outrage and punishment, but there’s a good chance that it’ll result in a negative outcome. Some of you may even later regret how you reacted.
Disappointments, among other negative and challenging situations, are really opportunities for leaders to come out shining. They can be the defining element of your leadership style, personality and character. In fact, handling disappointment well can earn you much respect, admiration and credibility.
To spin around disappointments you’ll need to remain composed and calm and think rationally. Try these useful suggestions to help you make the most of the situation.
1. Look Within
Before you approach the concerned employee(s), take a step back and assess the situation. Being a leader you may have authority but a spontaneous reaction could backfire or contribute to more chaos. Think your steps through and clearly plan your conversation and its result. You need to be sure that the outcome you’re aiming for is the best choice for the organization and the concerned employee. Ask yourself if you had a role in the disappointment? Could your involvement (or lack of it) have prevented this situation? Starting off on the right foot is pivotal to ensure you get the outcome that’s conducive to all parties.
2. Give Benefit of the Doubt
There’s a good chance that the disappointment that transpired was unintentional. When you’ve accepted that you’ve basically given the employee the benefit of the doubt and hence reduced much of your anger. Sure the error in their judgment or the mistake they made is still quite disappointing, but at least you’ve established there was no malicious thought behind it. Besides, however disappointed you as in them, there’s a good chance the employee is equally (if not more) disappointed at themselves. Hence, as their leader try to take the high road. Having said that, if, however, the act was intentional then it goes without saying that corrective measures need to be taken to address the matter – obviously in line with principles, values, ethics and your organization code and policies.
3. Focus on the Issue, Not the Person
Despite your best efforts to avoid it, you’re likely to blame the employee for the disappointment. Even though the employee may have been negligent or reckless, you need to separate the occurrence with the employee and focus on the behavior itself. Since your objective isn’t to punish or penalize the employee the only way you can extract any learning from the disappointment is if you avoid cornering the employee. Give them room to think, respond candidly and assess the situation with you. Be inquisitive as a coach and you’ll be able to avoid future occurrences of the disappointment.
4. What’s the Learning Here?
In every situation, there’s some learning – both the successes and disappointments. Push aside your anger and look at the situation from a learning perspective. What’s happened can’t be altered, but you sure can move ahead, learn from it and device ways to not let it happen again. Rather than being authoritative and bullying your employee, try cooperating and collaborating with them to make things better. Was there a flaw or gap in the process? Can human errors be limited? Are there skill enhancements or training needed? Get to the bottom of the problem and learn from it.
5. Be a Leader
Great leaders don’t use intimidation tactics to elicit behavior. Letting your anger lose will only instill fear in your employees and you know very well the outcome of that. Declining productivity, loss of drive and passion, gossip, reduced respect for you and alignment with you are just part of it. You don’t want your leadership to be stained with such perception. Instead, try being humble about the disappointment. Admit that you, as their leader, could have contributed more to avoid the situation. Then use the disappointment to build stronger bonds with your team, improve operational gaps, and be the visionary leader your organization respects. This really is your moment to shine.
We all get a rush of blood to the head when we’re faced with disappointment, it’s natural. Being a leader gives you false belief that you can get away with being angry. But in reality, it’ll only lead to a chain reaction of other negatives. Worst of all, your credibility as a leader is on the line. And that’s why it’s all the more important to take these suggestions into account when you’re hit with a disappointment. Consider it this way, disappointments are coaching opportunities in disguise. Be the savior and supporter your team needs and desires.