Persistence in business can lead to big wins

Be resilient and don't give up. It'll pay off in the long run.

I recently bought house insurance from a broker who had tried, without success, selling it to me over the phone at least five times during as many months. On her sixth call, I finally gave her the time to explore what I might need. Her persistence meant she eventually found me at a moment when I was open to her help. If she had only called me four or five times she would have failed in her mission. When is the last time you persisted with a task, even in the face of delays, setbacks, rejection or outright failure?

Career and leadership success comes from being one of the few that do not give up. It is a form of excelling, enabling you to stand out among your colleagues. So few people exhibit this necessary resilience. There is much truth to the saying that 95 per cent of people give up too easily and they end up working for the 5 per cent who don’t. What’s stopping you from being part of the 5 per cent? In my work, I often meet leaders and teams that allow one piece of poor feedback or a single “sorry I am not interested” comment to stop them in their tracks. They throw that great idea for helping their department in the bin, write off a potential client opportunity, stop trying to convince their boss of a great change initiative or stop chasing a partuclar job promotion. Here’s how to rise above that:

No need to take it personally

Far too many leaders take any rejection or push back too personally, thinking of themselves as being a poor performer, underachiever or even someone not capable of success. Maybe you made a mistake in a presentation, misunderstood the task at hand, were too slow to complete something. Acknowledge what happened without becoming emotionally attached. Avoid becoming overdramatic and loudly announcing: “That’s it, forget it. I give up and am not trying one more time.” Instead, be thick- skinned when communicating with others who you think might be taking pleasure in your failure.

View failure and rejections as learning

In our careers and lives, how else can we truly learn than by trying? I am convinced that our greatest learnings only come from understanding why we may have failed at something, not from when we easily succeeded. Next time you fail – be it convincing colleagues to accept your idea or to finish a project within a certain budget or time frame – ask yourself “when I try that again what can I do differently to ensure success?” Then ask:

• What should I stop doing?

• What should I start doing?

• What do I do less, or more of?

• What do I do differently?

Often the difference between succeeding and failing can be a few things. Some tasks, such as creating a new product or design, always take multiple attempts, with success first time around extremely rare. Think of Thomas Edison having hundreds of failed attempts at creating a light bulb. Contrast this with those tasks where only one attempt is possible – bidding to win a client tender contract, hiring a particular new employee or launching a new product.

There might be situations where failure is not really an option for an organisation. In these instances prepare well, understanding what you can learn from similar experiences in the past. Practise as much as possible beforehand to assess what might go wrong and how success can be assured. If you do not land that star employee or big client contract, learn from what happened and move on.

Be the voice of resilience

When you are part of a team that might be struggling to complete a piece of work, take the role of the encourager. Encourage your colleagues to continue, motivating them to not give up in the face of any difficulties. Sometimes you might be a lone voice in your team if others have all decided to give up. If you are the team leader, you might be able to use a combination of force (eg “we cannot go home until we have completed the task”) as well as of positive encouragement. If you are simply a team member, you may have to rely upon your skills of persuasion and act as a “leader without the job title”.

Remember that the difference between the person who succeeds and one who fails and gives up, is “one more try”. So what are you waiting for – have another go.

Nigel Cumberland is a Dubai-based leadership and executive coach, trainer, author and a founder of The Silk Road Partnership. His books include the recently published 100 Things Successful People Do: Little Exercises for Successful Living

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Published: September 12, 2016 04:00 AM


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