Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

4 Steps To Move Past Setbacks And Drive Success

Learn about 4 steps that can help leaders successfully navigate through setbacks and get their organization back on track towards achieving its long-term goals.

In today’s faster-paced, interconnected global environment, there’s no question that there are greater demands on leaders in terms of what they need to deliver. And those demands become more apparent when an organization suffers a setback in achieving its long-term goals.

It’s part of the human condition that when we experience setbacks in our hopes, plans, or even dreams, we retreat to our comfort zones to try and address this new wellspring of doubt and uncertainty regarding where we go from here.

While as individuals we have the opportunity to fall back within ourselves as we grapple with what to do next, as a leader, these are the times when your employees need to hear from you the most, not only to help them better understand what went wrong, but more importantly, what happens now.

Given how setbacks tend to create challenging times for an organization – and by extension your leadership – here are four steps that provide a roadmap for how you can help your employees navigate these periods of uncertainty and get back to achieving your long term goals.

1. Be up front about what’s going on
When we encounter setbacks, the natural inclination is to close ranks as an instinctual, protective response when faced with uncertainties about what’s to come. In leadership circles, there’s also a need to protect our sense of authority; that despite the fact that things haven’t turned out the way we planned, we do know what we’re doing.

Unfortunately, these self-protecting measures often lead to treating information as something that’s on a need to know basis. And as most of us have experienced, when there’s an information vacuum inside an organization, people will simply fill that void with their own assumptions or worst, their fears.

So, the first thing we need to do is be up front and honest about the situation. Admit to really what’s going on.

Indeed, by being open when you’re faced with setbacks, leaders instill greater trust in their leadership [Twitter logoShare on Twitter].

2. Relate to how this setback affects your employees and not just yourself
Recently, I worked with one leader whose company was grappling with the loss of a major contract. This setback not only created a lot of anxiety and stress within the company’s ranks, it also meant most employees had to tighten their belts as anticipated salary bumps were cut back due to the loss of revenue.

In the hopes of boosting employee morale, this leader shared with his employees how this setback was affecting him personally as well, given how his wife and him had to delay their plans of buying a new house.

This leader told me he hoped sharing his personal hardships with his employees would foster the feeling that they were all in this together. Unfortunately, the only thing his message gave rise to was feelings of animosity and resentment among his employees

What he failed to understand is that what his employees needed was not to hear about his personal hardships, but for him to demonstrate an awareness of the impact it was having on those under his care.

That’s why when faced with setbacks, leaders need to relate to how it impacts others and not just themselves [Twitter logoShare on Twitter].

3. Provide clarity about what the next steps will be and what you’ll do next
Naturally, when faced with any kind of setback, the natural inclination is to simply go into reactive-mode, where we just want to find the fastest and easiest way to get us back on track to achieving our long-term objectives.

Unfortunately, in that haste to regroup and get back on course, leaders can leave employees in a fog of vagueness where – although they understand what direction you want them to head in – there remains a lack of cohesion regarding the specific measures and steps that will be taken in the preceding days and weeks to help guide everyone forward.

After all, we never anticipate these setbacks and so when faced with them, we can doubt our understanding of what we need to do now and where we need to go next.

So don’t forget – setbacks create uncertainty; that’s why leaders need to provide clarity of how we’ll move forward [Twitter logoShare on Twitter].

4. When dust settles, revisit this setback to find lessons to learn going forward
When you’re grappling with a setback, it’s important that you focus on helping your employees get through this negative period and feel like they’re once again moving in a positive direction.

Remember that if your employees are truly invested in your long-term goals, any setback to achieving those targets is going to hurt. So allow your employees to feel that pain, which will help them move on to pursuing those long-term goals. Once the dust settles and your employees have regained their drive to keep pushing forward, revisit this setback to discover what you can learn from this event.

Giving your employees and yourself time to get over these negative moments will allow you to have a greater appreciation for what you can learn from these setbacks as the emotional sting will have lessened, and you can be more analytical in assessing how to avoid a similar outcome going forward.

Put simply, successful leaders help employees move past setbacks and later find lessons on how to do better [Twitter logoShare on Twitter].

Dealing with setbacks can be a difficult and at times, painful process, especially if it leaves us doubting whether the vision or goals we set out for ourselves are worthwhile, let alone achievable.

That’s why as leaders it’s vital that we understand the importance of not only how we go about contextualizing this moment, but what we articulate in terms of where we go from here and what comes next.

Not an easy task, to be sure, but one that is without question necessary if we are to ultimately succeed in our leadership, not just in terms of achieving our objectives, but in tapping into the best of all those we have the responsibility to lead.

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2 Comments
  1. On October 17th, 2017 at 7:10 PM Roopak Desai said:

    Well said. It fits very well with SCARF model to enable high performance leadership.

  2. On October 22nd, 2017 at 1:37 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Roopak; I’m glad you enjoyed my piece.

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