What's your problem?

I can't get over my failure...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I failed at a big project at work that I really thought I'd pulled off well - and I can't seem to get over it.

I understand now where I went wrong but I feel so embarrassed by my cock-up and my confidence has been badly shaken. I'm thinking of quitting as I don't know what else to do.

A: I'm always reading interviews with top tycoons and entrepreneurs and one of their frequent themes is the value of failure. Some even claim to be disappointed when their people fail to fail on the grounds that occasional failure is the inevitable consequence of aiming for the stars: and that's what their corporate culture demands.

Well, maybe. But I find it hard to imagine these top tycoons, after the disastrous collapse of some million-pound project, calling the project leader in for a congratulatory chat. 'We're proud of you, Simms. There was a time, I confess, when your consistent success rate had us deeply concerned - so the total collapse of this project of yours has given the board and me most timely reassurance. I've not the slightest doubt that you have a dazzling future here at Anglo-Galvanised.'

I don't suppose that's happened to you. Failure of the kind you've just experienced is horrible. But there's still a trace of truth in what those top tycoons profess to believe. One failure, however big and public, should never spell the end of a company career. Experience has a huge value and should never be wasted. Don't quit.

Instead, write a detailed account of this project, from genesis to exodus. Be factual and fearless. Resist making it an exercise in either self-justification or self-pity. Identify the precise moment when you began to get it wrong and analyse why.

Send the completed report to your line manager. You'll feel a lot better once you've completed this cathartic exercise. And if your company's got an ounce of sense, it'll circulate the report quite widely and be grateful that you compiled it.

Your confidence should begin to return immediately.

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