How many of us think back to that embarrassing time when we didn’t get that job, didn’t achieve that goal, or we believe that we had failed in some significant way?

How does it make us feel? What coping strategies can we put in place? More importantly, how can we learn from the experience and improve our future chances of success?

We have or will all fail at some point in our career according to the law of chance and averages.  After 20 years of assessing senior executives, the Zircon Psychologists have noticed that pretty much all of the most successful senior leaders have failed at some point in their career.

Being rejected often results in a questioning of self-worth and associated feelings of self-doubt. For some this can be a long and even permanent state.  However, failure can also be the best thing to help us to re assess what is really important.

Failure can be a trigger to initiate future success.  Reflective leaders, in the wake of a failure, are often able to clarify what they want to achieve in the future, and are even more determined to strive for that new goal, purpose or way of living.

Rejection is critical for success.  Back in 2012, Ron Ashkenas (Harvard Business Review) recognised the importance of ‘Rejection’ in order to succeed. Failure or rejection pushes a person to re-assess what is important, to re-consider their goals and think how much they want to achieve them. The Zircon research in 2015, concurred with this and found that Winners at Olympic or Global standard and Entrepreneurs who have made it BIG have all failed at some point in their career. It was failure that was the “trigger” to help them to clarify what was important and what they wanted to achieve.

From failure can come new insight.  We need to know and utilise our Strengths. We need to spend more time thinking about where we get our enjoyment and energy at work, and in life. And in this context by contemplating how our Strengths – perhaps over or underplayed – were instrumental in this recent failure.  Moving forward in a positive way, by identifying and gaining insight into our core Strengths, we can be clearer about how we want to behave, what we want to do and where investment of time and energy is most likely to deliver success.

Feedback is the key.  To turn failure into a success we need to be clear about what we offer and the value that we bring.  Feedback is critical to achieve this. We need to ask more questions, be more curious and inquisitive about the difference we are making, the areas in which we are strong and the areas we need to improve and should invite support from others. The Strengths Insight tools can help to achieve this.

In summary, knowing why we failed, as well as trying to get sight of our “fatal flaws” can lead to new insights and understanding.   Accepting that we might not always be the best candidate for the job or appreciating our part in a failure, can be character building.

We often need to fail in order to succeed; understanding our gaps and our Strengths is part of that future success.  Failure helps us all; world class athletes, entrepreneurs, business leaders, colleagues, friends and family members included, to rise anew and be even more determined for future success.

Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoyed the post.

Dr Amanda Potter, CEO of BeTalent and Zircon Management Consulting