Losing Graciously (#110)
This past weekend, I decided to tempt fate and head to the Super Bowl once again with my father, brother and father in law. While the outcome was not what we wanted, we had no regrets. We saw a great game and had an incredible experience that we may not get the opportunity to have again.
We felt grateful to have been able to experience the game live and did our best to be as gracious as possible in defeat to the elated Eagles fans who surrounded us; their city had suffered long enough and their team won a hard-fought game. They more than deserved to be proud and celebrate.
Earlier this week I had an experience that was the exact opposite of this. I was forwarded an e-mail that was sent by a salesperson in response to learning that their company had lost a deal to a competitor. Their approach was to reply in frustration, speak poorly of the competitor’s product and make false assertions.
What they did not do was to seek understanding as to why their product was not chosen.
I strongly value and encourage competition. I also appreciate that, even in friendly competition, no one likes to lose. However, losing poorly is not the sign of a champion. It’s reflective of people and organizations who prefer to look outward, not inward, to justify their failures.
People and organizations who continuously blame external factors for their failures/loses rather than honestly examining their own shortcomings will simply repeat their mistakes and be blind to their weakness. It’s always better to ask what could have been done better and learn from that for future situations than blaming exogenous forces.
Had this person taken this approach, they may have learned about a key selling point of the competitor that they could leverage in their pitch next time. Instead, they made a bad situation worse for both themselves and their company’s reputation.
World-class performers don’t like to lose but they learn how to lose well and lose graciously. They study their failures and always look inward first. This is one reason we have made it a policy at Acceleration Partners that managers must complete a debrief form when we lose a client or make a major mistake. The author is asked to note specifically what they and the organization could have done better and share ideas for how we can improve going forward.
We’ve also gained great insights by asking potential prospects why they chose a competitor when we lose a deal—and we listen intently without judgment.
Furthermore, if you think someone made a bad decision, telling them that after they made the decision is futile and doing so will do more harm than good. Instead, be gracious in the moment and call back in a few months to see how it’s going with the person/company who went in another direction.
One of my favorite operating principles at Acceleration Partners is “Keep Moving Forward,” which we describe as:
We avoid the roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. We celebrate our wins, remain humble and move on to the next challenge. Likewise, we reflect on our failures, adjust, and move forward without wondering what might have been.
None of us like to lose, but how we lose determines whether we increase our chances of turning the lessons of that loss into a greater victory.
Quote of the Week
How you play shows some of your character. How you win or lose shows all of it