Some disappointments are so enormous that a natural response is to look for someone to blame. Someone other than ourselves, that is.
When Giselle threw the receivers under the bus (“I can’t believe they dropped so many passes”), what she was really saying to Tom Brady was, “It’s not your fault. Don’t feel bad.” She was offering comfort, albeit at the expense of others.
But comfort at the expense of others is an excuse.
And there are 3 problems with excuses:
Excuses do not reveal the root cause of the problem.
Excuses do nothing to resolve the situation.
Excuses do not lead to improvement or the next win.
Tough-minded leaders do not accept excuses. In fact, tough-minded leaders will shoulder burdens that they are not even responsible for. Guilty by association.
Businesses, families, even societies, are like teams: you win and lose together. Every player has to perform at their peak AND the entire team has to pull together, without finger pointing or excuses. And if someone drops the ball, perhaps it was not thrown as well as it should have been.
How do you handle disappointment? Do you look for an excuse or do you try to learn from it and improve for next time?
Here are 5 ways to change how you deal with disappointment:
1. Ignore your first emotion. Letting an uprising of sadness or anger overtake you will only cloud your judgment and potentially lead to creating an even bigger problem than the one you have right now (ie. the media frenzy over Giselle’s comment.) If there was ever a time to invoke Emotional Intelligence, it is when sadness or anger are guiding you. Ignore these powerful but unhelpful first emotions!
2. Recognize the efforts of others. No one intentionally drops the ball, and who do you think feels the most devastated? The person who actually did drop the ball. Adding blame does nothing to change the outcome. When someone fails in a really big way, recognize that they gave it everything they had, and mistakes happen. A pat on the back works wonders to restore someone’s confidence in their own performance. And you’ll feel a lot better than if you ream them up and down.
3. Take responsibility. Choose guilt by association and own the entire mistake all on your own. Sound heavy? It’s actually enlightening to step up, put yourself in the middle of the huddle and say, “I could have done a better job.” Then get back out there and try again. I have the feeling that Brady did just that, after every dropped pass.
4. Look for the root cause. There are so many reasons mistakes happen. And sometimes there is no reason at all – just bad luck. Instead of quickly looking for someone or something to blame, step back and look underneath the mistake for the root cause. What happened just before the mistake occurred? Often the root cause lies there.
5. Make a decision. One reason mistakes feel so lousy is that they are an in-your-face demonstration that you have lost control. Take control back by making a decision to change something, practice something, learn something, purchase something – and then follow through with action that supports your decision. Be intentional, make a plan, and do it.
You’ll get over the disappointment in no time, AND set yourself up for success next time, when you choose these steps instead of wallowing in excuses and blame.