Use Setbacks As A Springboard To Get Even Better

How you overcome hardship is what sets you apart. Don’t just try to bounce back. Use setbacks as a springboard to make changes and get even better.


Resilience is important because change is so prevalent these days, says Melody Wilding, a New York-based executive coach and human behavior professor at Hunter College. “That requires resilience,” said Wilding, author of “Trust Yourself.”

Overcome Hardship: Expect Setbacks

Problems are bound to arise in any situation, Wilding says. What matters is how you overcome hardship.

“Whether you’re making a personal change or you’re guiding a team through change, you go through a honeymoon period and then you hit friction and adversity or conflict,” Wilding said. “We all need to know how to do this.”

Ama Marston, San Francisco-based chief executive and co-founder of leadership consulting firm Type R Partners, says you should strive for resilience that involves improving on where you were. Strive for more than simply bouncing back to your previous level.

“Transformative resilience is using challenges, stress and adversity to propel us forward so we learn, grow and innovate,” Marston said. “It’s a lost opportunity to go back just to where we came from.”

Knowing how to overcome hardship is even more important during the pandemic. “It’s more relevant because so many people have had their foundations shaken up,” said Marston, co-author of “Type R.”

Step Back To Springboard And Overcome Hardship

Wilding tells people to first pause after a setback occurs. Avoid the temptation to simply muscle through it. A little time refreshes your perspective when you overcome hardship.

“If you act from a highly emotional state, you won’t get a good outcome,” she said. “Stepping back helps you manage your own thoughts.”

Reflect on what happened and assess it, Wilding says.

“Ask yourself, ‘What productive lessons can I take from this and what can I let go?’ ” she said. “Figure out how to move forward. Maybe that’s resetting your goals or changing milestones.”

Take The Springboard Mentality

Adopt the right mindset to improve after a setback even beyond your previous level.

Take a business that has been hit by Covid and started working remotely. The leaders can set the tone and model the right behavior by showing employees they don’t need to be available 24 hours a day, Marston says. Ask what employees need. Build more flexibility and new benefits into the system to help employees.

“It’s systemic,” Marston said. “It’s not just about, ‘Hey, employee, we need you to do more with less.’ “

Face Reality To Overcome Hardship

It’s important not to sugarcoat what went wrong when you overcome hardship, Marston says.

“Acknowledge the loss and pain,” she said. “But you have to focus on knowing there is something you can draw from this.”

Adopt that mindset by reflecting on your own situation, Marston says. “It often requires distance,” she said. “If a leader is looking at their own faults, that allows them to reframe before they go to others, and you can create a culture from that.”

Springboard From Small Victories

As you overcome hardship, you might find you must set boundaries with a person. Wilding worked with a client who had staffers who showed up late or not at all in the early days of the pandemic. He started by covering for them. But he finally drew the line. Eventually, he let a few workers go. But morale and results improved.

Get your entire group to be resilient by making it part of your firm’s mission, Wilding says. That might include traits like optimism and finding solutions. Your team’s resilience will become part of the culture.

It’s also important to recognize wins along the way, Wilding says. That’s true even if the end result isn’t what you wanted. Maybe a customer gave you great feedback or a team member had an off-the-charts performance.

“All of those little wins will add up to greater momentum and resilience you can build on,” she said.


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