09/26/2012 12:16 EDT | Updated 11/26/2012 05:12 EST

How to Recover Your Personal Brand After a Failure


A personal branding strategy is built around success. Knowing what you're good at, articulating the value you can deliver, and getting recognized for that value are the three key elements in creating a brand. But we all fail from time to time. The project is delivered late, the client selects a different supplier, the product launch flops. How do you, and your personal brand, recover? Here are some suggestions:

1. Focus on the positive. Most efforts are not complete failures. The project was delivered late, but it delivered some creative solutions. You didn't win the proposal, but the client liked some aspects of what you suggested and promised to give you opportunities to bid in the future. The product launch flopped, but it's still a good product and you have lots of ideas on how to build on the small customer base you achieved. Practice your 30-second elevator speech describing the positive outcomes. Enthusiasm, self-confidence and a focus on the future will make people forget the flops.

2. Ask yourself if the failure, which looms large in your eyes, was really such a big deal. Often, we keep going back to what went wrong, even though everyone else has long forgotten about it. Unless you are sure that people are still thinking about it (in which case, follow suggestion #1 above), don't bring up the lousy presentation you did last month. Why remind people? Authors write bad books, Olympic champions lose races, and we all have off days.

3. Look for the learning opportunity. It really is true that without failure, you can't have great success. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple. He founded Next, which was another dead end, but he also bought what became Pixar. And he found out that content matters! I firmly believe that if he had stayed at Apple, the company would have stuck with computers and would not have gone on to develop the iPod and the iPhone. Talk about the important lessons you learned and how you will apply them in the future.

4. Apply what you learned. If you make a poor presentation, figure out what you need to do to improve, and then quickly identify an opportunity to show people that you can do better. It's easy to shy away from doing what you failed at before -- you'll need to put yourself back in the game.

5. Remember that success is often a matter of luck and timing. And so is failure. You launched your dotcom company in 1998 -- success. You launched it in 2001 -- failure. You focused on your technical skills, rather than your sales skills, when the economy was booming and technical skills were in short supply -- success. You tried the same strategy when the economy was weak and people with technical skills were everywhere -- failure. It's not about you, but about the right approach at the right time. Look around you and see what you need to change.

6. Don't blame others. Even if your team let you down, playing the blame game just makes you sound like a sore loser. You may decide that you won't include George in your future project teams, but keep that to yourself (and discuss it with George, so he can learn too). But for public consumption, take your lumps and move on. If someone is deliberately undermining the team, you do need to escalate the matter, but usually there is plenty of blame to go around.

7. If you really did screw up and impact others, apologize and make amends. Offer to work overtime or do something for free. Explain how you'll do better next time -- and then demonstrate that.

8. Make learning from failure a part of your brand. Pick a failure in your past (nothing too recent of course!) that makes a good story and let people know. It will make you appear more human, will underline the how successful you are today in comparison and will give you the opportunity to talk about what you learned.