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Your staff shouldn’t have to gauge your mood in 2016


You are going to be disappointed in 2016. Much as you were in 2015 and every year before that. Disappointment, complaints and failure are part of the experience for every leader, innovator, clinician and researcher. That’s actually a very good thing.

How you respond when (not if) that happens will also predict how much success will flow into your experience.

Failure occurs because:

  • People aren’t prepared
  • Accidents happen
  • The team has unrealistic expectations
  • Someone becomes ill or for some other reason can’t support the project
  • The customer didn’t like what you offered on this occasion
  • Bad luck

Your team will watch your reaction closely, even if you don’t notice.

They’ll be asking themselves:

  • Is this fair? (By the way they will be much more inclined to think it isn’t)
  • Is it my fault?
  • Do I have something to fear from the boss’s reaction?
  • Is this a sign that we are on the wrong road?
  • Do I really want to work here?

Prepare. What would you like your team to learn from disappointment?

  • Let’s work out what went wrong and to what extent we could have fixed it
  • We don’t like this feeling so let’s prepare better
  • Let’s find a way round this
  • That was fun. Shame it didn’t work out but we are so much better for the experience

So don’t encourage:

  • Recrimination
  • Despair
  • Anger / Fear (the same emotion)
  • Civil war

The best way to avoid these outcomes is not to initiate, encourage or participate in such behaviour. Don’t vocalise negative emotions because in doing so people will either disagree with you and make a bad situation worse or take responsibility when they shouldn’t, only to regret it later.

You will fail in 2016- the failures may be big or small but the fact that you will be trying is to be celebrated. Disappointment is a good thing because it will make it more likely that you will succeed later because you learned something important. If your reaction betrays extreme commitment to the desired outcome then ponder why the outcome means so much to you that your staff dreads giving you bad news.

At this time of New Year’s resolutions- resolve to accept failure and accept the gifts of wisdom and humility that come with it. Commit to leadership and innovation starting with you.

Picture by tibo



  1. Ian watts says:

    Great to read ‘Crucial Conversations’ as one way to open the discussion about the challenging things.

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