My client, a start-up founder, was about to go into a big meeting.
The kind where you show off the latest version of your app and it leads to press coverage and a major pay-off💰.
Then he got a text from his CTO:
“Don’t demo the app! The bugs aren’t fixed yet.”
Meeting finished, he dialed the CTO. 😡
Luckily, he had the presence of mind to tell himself: “Whatever you do, don’t say anything permanently damaging.”
Otherwise, he could have been looking for another CTO.
It’s natural to get emotional when things don’t go your way.
Especially when the stakes are high.
But if you lose it, you’ll only end up digging yourself into a deeper hole.
So as a leader, how can you use a setback to motivate — not demoralize — your team?
1️⃣ Resist the knee–jerk reaction.
« If I run around the office screaming at everybody because we just lost our most profitable client, what kind of message does that send to the team?” says Brent Gleeson, Navy SEAL-turned-Inc 500 entrepreneur.
“Nothing is as time-sensitive in business as you think it is. » You always have time to take a breath and recalibrate.
2️⃣ Stick to the facts.
Still, it’s okay to let the team know that you’re angry, because you care.
But you have a choice.
You can speak with precision: “We had a big opportunity here and we didn’t take advantage of it. »
Or a melodramatic “We blew it!”
Which one will be more effective?
3️⃣ Skip the blame game.
If you focus on figuring out who’s at fault, the team will go into self-protection mode.
So you can say: “This project bombed — what went wrong?” and put everyone on the defensive.
Or you can say: “You’re all smart. I bet you’ve been thinking about how we handled this. What are your thoughts on what you’ll do next time?”
Because things are going to go wrong.
The only question is how quickly you get everyone back on track.