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  • Writer's pictureMike Bensi

Help Others Deal with Disappointment

If you ask my children, disappointment is part of their everyday lives. Requests for an extra scoop of ice cream or a hopeful look to help them understand their middle school math homework are occasionally (they would say frequently) rejected.

And disappointment is obviously part of life in the workplace. Losing a sale, a client, or high performer. Missing a goal or target. Falling short on a project implementation. Cancelling this year's holiday party (well, maybe not everyone is disappointed).

Leaders must model a response that helps others overcome and respond to disappointment constructively rather than destructively. To help the process, ask your team:

What are the facts? Help the team focus on what really happened by looking at the objective data vs subjective or defensive responses. By doing a reality check, you help the team review the facts and avoid their own assumptions.

What feels like a punch in the gut? Take the opportunity tell your team about how you’re feeling about the disappointment. While this may feel like it goes against the first question, by sharing a healthy response to your own feelings of disappointment you allow the team permission to share their own responses in a healthy way as well.

What did we learn? Everyone plays a role in a team's success and failure. Rather than pointing fingers, reviewing the learnings from the disappointment allows you and the team to take responsibility and ownership.

What will we do differently tomorrow? Asking this question starts at the effort to create and build a plan for what is next. What expectations do you all need to reset to create a better outcome next time?

Disappointments can have a large impact emotionally. And that is OK. But it is up to the leader to help the team see a disappointment as an opportunity for greater learning, strength, and success in the long run.

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