Leadership with heart, mind, and soul

How To Explain Failure

Added on by Sam Davidson.

When you fail, you will have some explaining to do. But you won't need to explain it to as many people as you think. With so much social media chatter and hype, it's easy to think that everyone needs to know why something didn't work out. 

But everyone doesn't need to know. Here's who does:

1) To those who were expecting something

If people were expecting a product or service you sold them, and they didn't get it (or won't ever be getting it), they're owed an explanation. Tell them why something is delayed, why it didn't work out, and what you're planning to do about it. There's no need to say the same to the masses; just let your customers know how you're going to make things right so they can realign their expectations. 

If your family was expecting you to come through with something you'd promised, and now you can't, honestly tell them what's going on. If your friends needed something from you and you have to back out now, tell them. If your work group, study group, or church group was expecting you to fill a certain role, then they need to be the first to hear when you can no longer live up to that obligation so they can plan accordingly. 

2) To those who care about you

They may not be a customer, a group member, or an investor, but people who deeply care about you want to know what's going on, usually so they can offer help in some form. And contrary to what Facebook tells you, not everyone you're connected with cares about you. There's no need to change your status when the engagement is called off. Your roommate from summer camp junior year doesn't care about you all that much anymore. 

So instead of stressing over changing your work status online, email your ten closest confidants instead. Don't fret about an Instagram caption when all who really needs to know why you don't wear your wedding ring anymore could come over for dinner and you can share it with those folks in person. Keep people who care about you in the loop and they'll offer love and support through any low point.

3) To yourself

And the only other person who needs to know what's going on and why it's happening is you. While a lot of upside can be gained from failing, it's certainly not something you want to repeat. So analyze it to death if you must, but make sure you have a truthful explanation of the facts and the process that led to this point. 

But then, move on. Failure is awful and heartbreaking, but this worst thing doesn't have to be the last thing. If you take the time to tell yourself what happened and focus on ways to prevent it from recurring, then you're on your way to a better place. 

Failure doesn't have to be public. But it can't stay hidden. Choose the right people to do your explaining to and then get on with things. Forward motion is always the best cure for the "didn't quite happen like I wanted" blues. 

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