How to Rebound From Failure

Failure is inevitable. At some point in your life, you are going to suffer a setback, whether it is when you are applying for a position at a new company, trying to meet KPIs and targets, or making a sale to a large prospective client. Not succeeding at a task is nothing to be ashamed of, it is how you react and carry on that determines your long term success.

Robert F. Kennedy, the American senator, once stated that “only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” This mentality can help you respond and push forward, so next time you will be more successful.

So how can you respond to failure and achieve more next time? Here is a quick guide.

1. Acknowledge the Failure

The first step in any recovery from failure is to acknowledge it. If you don’t recognise that failure has occurred, you will struggle to move on, and might continue on with a ‘project’ not realising that there is no hope for a satisfactory conclusion.

Once you’ve realised something has gone wrong you need to let go of any associated emotions and approach the subject sensibly. According to psychology research on personality from the Harvard Business School, 11 personality types can lead to a dysfunctional response to failure and this can represent 70% of the population.

These 11 personality types tend to react in one of three ways:

Extrapunitive – Those that unfairly blame others for their failure.

Impunitive – These people deny any failure has occurred and their role in it.

Intropunitive – They judge themselves harshly and imagine failure.

Any of these can lead to an emotional outburst or a creeping negativity that can affect performance, productivity and interactions with those around you.

Instead, concentrate on removing the emotion, especially anger, from your situation. This can be done in whatever way suits you best, whether it is playing sport, squeezing a stress ball or taking time to watch a film. Anything that relaxes you and resets your emotional state.

2. Redefine the Failure

The next stage is to redefine the failure. By viewing it negatively, you’ll never be able to move on and adjust your behaviours to succeed next time. Failure should be seen as nothing more than a learning point, a step to help you achieve better in life and be more successful. Once that mentality has occurred, you’ll be in a much better position to support your future actions.

Also, this is the perfect time to analyse what contributed to the failure. Clearly identify the specifics of the failure including the what, why, when and how it occurred. Then, from your analysis, you can ascertain what behaviours or resources you need to achieve success next time.

If you can’t decide what went wrong yourself, then it is best to speak to someone else who has not been involved. Their perspective might shed new light on the processes and behaviours, and offer you an objective point of view. The third party should be someone you trust, like a family member, friend, mentor or it could be someone from a professional organisation – it all depends on who you feel comfortable talking to.

3. Putting Lessons Into Action

Finally, you need to take the lessons you’ve learned from the failure into practical use next time you attempt the same action. This might require you to undergo training or practice, to improve behaviours, invest in new resources or to reschedule activities to provide you with the time necessary to make a success of your next attempt.

It is never a good idea to let failure define you or to prevent you from moving outside of your comfort zone again. This is when failure really is a disaster. If you can find a way to turn disappointments into motivation and learning points, you’ll go on to achieve great success, and as Winston Churchill stated “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”.


There is no shame in failing. You should be proud of yourself for trying, so don’t let failure consume you. Adjust your behaviour to turn a challenging time into a springboard for greater achievement, by learning from the mistakes made, whether in your current role, seeking a new position or in your personal life.

Balcroft supports clients’ staff, giving them the best chance to succeed, by creating environments with active management and optimised tools and processes. This ensures sustained changes in behaviour.

Often staff have experienced a number of failed transformation projects and are therefore very sceptical when it comes to change. Our approach is very collaborative, working with people to bring about change, rather than doing it to them. Equally, we take our combined real-world experiences of successful and failed projects within the companies we have managed in our respective industries and the consultancy firms we have used or worked for and take methods of best practice, knowing what works and what doesn’t to ensure we never fail moving forward. Our results speak for themselves. We have never failed to deliver what we promise in the projects we have implemented, which is why we make the guarantees we do to our clients: if we fail, we will continue at our cost, until we deliver what we agreed at the outset.

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