A 3 Step System to Come Out Smarter After Failure

The same failures repeat for blunt skulls.

It’s not enough to say, “I screwed up.”


A 3 step system to come out smarter after failure:

#1. Name it. Address the past.

Name the bad decisions and behaviors that led to failure. 

  • I didn’t explore constructive dissent.
  • I allowed others to lower my standards.
  • I didn’t discuss this with mentors, advisors, or a coach.
  • I assumed things would go smoothly.
  • I put confidence in untested team members.

The most important benefit of failure is humility.

#2. Claim it. Own the present.

Own the negative impact of failure on yourself, individuals, teams, customers, and your organization. Complete these sentences:

  1. Our team lost momentum because I …
  2. We lost revenue because I …
  3. Our customers were disappointed when I …
  4. I let myself down when I …

#3. Reframe it. Move toward the future.

Forward-facing reframe:

  1. My personal aspirations are …. (Don’t say your aspirations are to stop failing.)
  2. Next time I’ll ….
  3. Invite input. What suggestions for future success do you have for me?
  4. I need to stop ______ , in order to be the manager I aspire to be.
  5. I need to _______, in order to be the leader I aspire to be.

Wisdom-gaining reframe:

  1. I’m learning that managing requires ….
  2. I’m learning that my team needs ….
  3. I see in myself a ….
  4. I’m thankful for ….

Failure tips:

  1. Don’t sweep failure under the carpet. When you fail to benefit from failure, you double defeat.
  2. If your organization shoots its wounded, get the most from failure with someone you trust.
  3. Use the ‘three steps to come out smarter after failure’ with yourself, direct reports, and teams.
  4. Spend 30% of your time looking back and 70% of your time looking forward.
  5. Address failure from a positive orientation, even when facing negative consequences.

What might be added to the Name it – Claim it – Reframe it approach?

What questions or statements help leaders get smart after failure?

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