Being Content: A Leadership Lesson on Failure

You can't always succeed. Many of the women I work with are alarmed and frightened when they encounter setbacks in their professional life — even small ones.

But these "failures" are rarely catastrophic. In fact, they're usually powerful tools for growth that, if leveraged properly, can make you look like a thoughtful person who handles your professional life with grace.


Owning Failures 

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There is so much power in ownership, especially when it comes to your failures. When was the last time you accepted your situation for what it was - a simple blip on the radar of your life's journey? If humans spent as much time accepting our shortcomings as we do focusing on them, the world would be a better place. Being content is based on this acceptance. Think about that shifting mindset. The next time you find yourself in a situation where you lost or things didn't go the way you wished they had, try accepting it. Take a minute to accept the scenario. Process what happened, acknowledge the feelings you have, then ship it. What I mean is, move on. Throw that experience into your contentment category.

Life is about learning, isn't it? We spend the majority of our young impressionable lives in the academic setting. But that learning doesn't automatically stop when we graduate or don the cap and gown. Humans are pupils of life - learning just looks different than it did when we were students in a classroom setting. With every opportunity in your life whether it's personal or professional, you have the chance to fail or succeed. Of course, there's some gray area in that instance, and it's not always that cut and dried. And, you have the chance to accept that outcome with grace and contentment, or you can let it eat you up. 


The Habit You Must Break

I've been coaching and listening to women for a really long time. No matter the circumstance, industry, or setting I've noticed a theme that prevents women from accepting failures. Many people find themselves apologizing a lot, it's become a habit for us regardless of our position of leadership. It's an unfortunate side effect of how many people are acculturated, especially in workplace or professional situations where they're pressured to succeed. If you've been conditioned into apologizing, you might believe it's important to take the blame, even if it doesn't belong to you.

Unfortunately, apologizing a lot doesn't make you look gracious, even though that might be what you want. It's more likely to cultivate a negative impression because it draws attention to mistakes or setbacks you've made. And for many people, it also leaves them flustered and feeling worse. Have you ever had a bad day where you find yourself apologizing for everything around you? The bad feeling you cultivate by apologizing affects the professional decisions you make further down the line — and in turn, you end up apologizing for more.

This doesn't mean to never apologize. There are times when an apology is genuinely warranted — say if you've personally let people down who were counting on you. In these case, issue a clear, simple, straightforward apology (not a "nonapology" like "I'm sorry if you were hurt) with compassion and grace. I'll touch on the paralyzing habit of apology in an upcoming blog - that's another topic I'm very passionate about.


Contentment is Attainable 

Do you know why we're called coaches at Next Monday? It's because that's how we apply our talents - in coaxing and encouraging women like you to train to change. A different way to go about leadership training. If I could wave a magic wand and grant women the instant ability to accept themselves, failures and all, I'd have the secret sauce right there. But that's not how coaching works. Women are too different to apply one method of coaching across the board. I've worked with people who are great at accepting failures at home but not at work, and vice versa. As you're reading this, you might catch yourself nodding along to different parts of the narrative. Other women will spot familiarity in the places you didn't. That's perfectly normal. That's perfectly life!


Leaders don't have to lead in the traditional sense of leadership. They don't have to hold a big title or lead a big team. Women are natural facilitators and stewards of change. But, the self-sabotaging ways we don't accept failures as part of our leadership leads to our breakdown. And, developing leadership skills doesn't happen overnight. It's time to make contentment a regular occurrence - Let Next Monday know if want a little support in getting there. 

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