So, you failed. What’s your next move? 


Failures — both big and small — are a natural part of life and they can be particularly common in dynamic teams where new processes are being trialled for the first time. Just because they’re common, it doesn’t mean that they’re pleasant. So, how can leaders recover from a failure and how can they help their team to move on?

You might be reading this because you’ve already failed and need guidance, or perhaps you’ve got a big project coming up where failure could be on the cards. If it’s the latter, now is the time to think about how you want to approach any failure that might come your way. Will you dive right in and analyse every move you and your team made or will you just scrap everything and push forward, not dwelling on any mistakes made?

There are benefits to both routes but no matter which approach you take, there are some important things to do and to remember:

Deal with your emotions first — when the team fails, it can be devastating for everyone who put their hard work, time and effort into trying to pull a project off. Leaders need to take some time to take stock of their own emotions before handling the emotions of the team.

Separate the personal — when you talk about the mistakes made along the way, use the language of ‘what’ went wrong rather than ‘who’ did the wrong thing. In a high-performing team, team members will likely own up when they know the responsibility was their own but it’s best to have those conversations privately to avoid playing the blame game.

Find something to learn from — even if your team prefers to forge forward, it’s important to find at least one thing from the experience that you can learn from. If you learn nothing at all from the attempt, your team could be doomed to fail in the exact same way, all over again.

Do not hold failure over anyone — never make your team worried that their failure will be held over them at a performance review. Your team needs to feel confident that their errors won’t come back to bite them. Failure shouldn’t be treated as a black mark against a name but as a natural part of the path to success.

Don Shula’s 24 hour rule

A legendary football coach from the US, Don Shula implemented the 24 hour rule in his team. It was “a policy of looking forward to the next challenge instead of dwelling on the precious victory or failure”. He allowed his team to celebrate their victories or wallow in their failure for just 24 hours before they came together and set their eyes on the prize again.

The approach allowed the players to feel their emotions deeply but it also ensured that they weren’t stuck dwelling on the past and blind to the future. This tactic is something many leaders can learn from. It doesn’t need to be 24 hours, but time to process coupled with a focus on the future is a good balance to strive for.

Are you ready to help your team handle failure effectively? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.