How do you come back from failure?

30 November 2017

UK Olympic taekwondo finalist Lutalo Muhammad was just seconds from an almost certain gold medal when a sudden reverse kick delivered defeat and silver. Most of us would be ecstatic to win an Olympic silver medal, but for a distraught Muhammad, silver meant failure.

So, what has this got to do with business? Most of us have been in a situation where we’ve been invited to pitch for the big one.  You’ve met the potential client and the chemistry feels right, your proposal is great and has all the right messages and now you’re just waiting to be told the good news. The call comes - and you’ve come a close second - and expected elation becomes bitter disappointment – say hello to the world of Lutalo Muhammad.

In that situation what can you do, how does a business leader or manager respond. Here are some thoughts:

  • Re-appraise: were you really as close to winning as you thought and what caused that confidence. Did you raise the expectation of your team beyond reality?
  • Get feedback from the potential client: and do it now, while it’s still fresh. Was the proposal or bid scored and what were your weaknesses and strengths relative to the winner. What does this tell you and was there anything you could have done that would have changed the outcome.
  • Get feedback from your team: do it now and make sure it is honest. What did they think about the proposal and how confident were they? How did you perform as a leader and what more could you have done?
  • Draw a line under it and move on: once you've got feedback, had an honest assessment with the team, move on and don’t waste energy on recrimination or bitterness.
  • Learn the lessons: look at the feedback, work out how you can improve your chance of winning next time. Make changes visible so the team knows you’re listening to feedback.
  • Finally, give your team an energy boost. Set the tone and you set both energy levels and enthusiasm. You can be visibly disappointed but show hunger to learn from the loss and improve. 


Emulate Sir Alan Sugar - every business will face losses and setbacks, but businesses that don't let them linger and earn and adapt, will be successful in the long run. That’s the Sugar solution and he's managed to do alright for himself.


Stuart Hatcher

Stuart Hatcher | Partner
Profile | Email | +44 (0)20 7213 1416



Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear until the author has approved them.