All Articles Leadership Inspiration How do you motivate your team after an unexpected setback?

How do you motivate your team after an unexpected setback?

6 min read


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Q. What is one way you motivate your team after an unexpected setback?

1. Look for the lesson

When something negative happens, it’s important to remember “if you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” Too often, setbacks are seen as emotional defeats, but when broken down logically, clarity can help a team move on more quickly. By being transparent, open and willing to set your ego aside, you can openly discuss the problem in a way that despite the setback, you’ll be fighting strong again tomorrow. — Kenny Nguyen, Big Fish Presentations

2. Take time for reflection

We don’t allow talking about the setback for 24 hours, and we all go out to dinner (on me). This gets rid of the whiplash reaction of blame where you can’t get at the real truth of the matter, and the team gels again. The next day, it is easier for each person to voice what they themselves could have done better to prevent the setback. – Peter Daisyme, Hostt

3. Evaluate and move forward

I try to find and focus on the silver lining. There are always going to be ups and downs when you run a business, and my approach is to remember we survived the setback, rally, and move on to the next project. — Simon Casuto, eLearning Mind

4. Identify positive and constructive feedback

Coaching sports and leading businesses is similar. You will win some games and you will lose some. Draw the team around after wins and losses. Ask everyone to share one positive thing that occurred. Then ask everyone to share one area where the team could improve or change. Learn how not to execute the same situation in the future, making chances for success that much better. — Christophor Jurin, Construct-Ed, Inc.

5. Counter a bad surprise with a good one

Unexpected setbacks are inevitable. However, there’s no doubting the havoc they can wreak on the morale of your already frazzled team. Counter an unexpected setback with an unexpected perk or positive experience. Take the team out to dinner, or do a field trip. Not only will this lift their spirits, it will give you all a low-stress environment to regroup and respond to whatever the problem is. — Brian Honigman,

6. Shift the focus to your most recent triumph

I encourage my employees by shifting their focus back to their most recent big win. In most cultures, failure is celebrated while success is not. We dwell on what we don’t want or why things went wrong. Instead, I guide my team to the lessons we can learn from the unexpected setback and how we can use it as kindling to stoke the fire of our next big success. – Joshua Lee, StandOut Authority

7. Have frequent all-hands meetings

My company has been through some rough times lately, and I realized several months ago that if I did monthly all-hands meetings I could control the mood much better. If you are transparent with company challenges, it gives your employees a chance to take ownership and help. If you have a good company culture, people will want to do their part to pitch in. Show optimism, be transparent and listen. — Joshua Waldron, Silencerco, LLC

8. Lead by example

I’m always focused on the future. When something great happens people think, “oh, you must be proud or excited.” And there’s not a lot of that; I just view it as a stepping stone. I view setbacks as a stepping stone as well. I don’t do anything specifically to try to motivate other than making sure I keep myself motivated. There’s enough like-minded people I work with that feel the same way. — Dan Price, Gravity Payments

9. Be stoic

It’s been said that one of the greatest indications of success is one’s ability to bounce back from adversity. Do not get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. Nothing that happens is inherently good or bad; it just happens. Carry that attitude through and through, and others will follow. — Adam Stillman, SparkReel

10. Be intentional about your reaction

Most people are either motivated or not. What you can do after a setback, however, is talk through what happened to learn from it, make the changes required to ensure it doesn’t happen again and be intentional about your reactions as a leader. What leaders do or don’t do in those critical moments shapes peoples’ future behavior in radical ways, so we must carefully self-monitor our reactions. — Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

11. Don’t punish people

In my agency, we prefer speed to perfection, so we cannot keep mental records of previous mistakes. That keeps the pace up. I can’t have people second-guessing themselves. I try to ensure that all discussions about mistakes are about identifying and fixing an issue, rather than slipping into some kind of punitive shame session. — Alec McNayr, McBeard Media

12. Motivate your team by getting back to your vision

At ThinkCERCA, we have a strong vision and set of values that we work towards: we want to help improve education for all kids. Whenever we’re feeling down, we reconnect with the kids we serve: we visit classrooms, see our product in action and talk to some of the teachers and students who use our software. Once we get their input and ideas, we go back to work refreshed, reenergized and inspired. — Abby Ross, ThinkCERCA

13. Be upfront and outline next steps

Be open with your team and they’ll appreciate it. Let them know how the next steps will actually get you closer to your goal. We have a saying, “Fail forward,” so everything that happens is a motivator. — Eric

14. Focus on learning and revisit the vision

Because this is an “unexpected setback,” it means that you never saw it coming. I’d ask, “Well, why?,” then focus on what we would have done differently. After that, it’s time to move on and get back to working towards the vision. There will be plenty of those along the way anyway. — BJ Cook, Digital Operative Inc.

15. Always be learning and growing

One of our 10 core values is “Always Be Learning and Growing.” As a data-driven company we make calculated moves, but we are also carving a new path in the realm of employee feedback and communication. Not every risk will pay off. The important element is to keep striving for the achievement of our highest potential. By taking what we learn into future challenges, setbacks become less prevalent. — David Hassell, 15Five