Barbara's Blog

Recover From A Setback - 5 Steps To Get Back On Track

Posted on 1/30/2017 by Barbara Blake in leadership executive coaching executive presence leadership development

Practicing a new behavior is a challenge. Even when it seems to be going well there are times when we get tripped up. When that happens follow these five steps to get back on track.

Has this happened to you? You’ve identified a behavior you want to eliminate or created a new one. After two or three months things are going well and your productive response to a trigger is becoming more natural. Those around are reacting positively to your adjustments in behavior and begin to trust the “new” you is solid. Overconfidence sets in. One day your guard is dropped and WHAM! The “old” you comes out of nowhere. You destroy three months of effort and trust in 20 seconds, maybe less.

You are shocked, everyone is shocked. Tension is palpable. What do you do? Cue the Southwest Airlines commercial – Want to get Away? Or take ownership and recover with these five steps.

Step One. Take a breath. Take responsibility and apologize.  No excuses in your apology. Convey you will learn from the event keeping everyone informed on how you will prevent another incident.

Step Two. Take time to regroup, reschedule the meeting, step out for a minute, do whatever you need to do to be the centered focused leader you are.

Step Three. Schedule time with yourself to conduct a forensic analysis of what just happened and figure how you regain your momentum. Questions to consider in your analysis include:

  • What is the real problem?
  • Who/what was the trigger?
  • What caused me to miss the warning signs?
  • What caused me to ignore the warning signs?
  • What other scenarios might unleash this again?

With answers to these questions you can move to the next step.

Step Four.  Solve the problem(s) This step may take several "meetings" with yourself to answer the following questions. You may need to get observations from others as well.

  • What options do I have for supporting the behavior adjustment?
  • What must happen to be successful?
  • What might happen to cause a future failure? How do I plan for it?

Step Five. Now is the time to perform. Your plan should be as much about what you are going to do as what you are going to do for others.

  • How will I execute and get feedback?
  • How will I rebuild my relationship with direct reports, peers and colleagues?

It is up to you to go all the way to rebuild relationships with those affected, there is no 50/50. It is natural to think that the other person needs to move toward you.  After all, you are trying and you expect others to be sympathetic and help you out. Things generally do not follow that expectation. Instead be guided by the 100/0 Principle developed by Al Ritter. The concept is when you take responsibility for a relationship (the 100) and expect nothing in return (the 0) you create the conditions for a better relationship. It takes time and consistency. Just what you need to recover and become better a leader. 

"Each bruise is a lesson. Each lesson makes us better." Syrio Forel, a Game of Thrones character.

Setbacks are a natural part of behavior adjustments and change. It is how we grow. How you manage those setbacks speaks volumes about you as a person and a leader.