Why How You Lose Matters to Your Team

What a week – a week ago Saturday I arrived home after 5 days away to my 14+ year old dog who had appeared to have had a stroke, but as I wrote last week, he was battling vestibular disease. We suffered through the next two days under advice of a trusted vet; and then I left for another business trip on Monday, home late Wednesday. I’m happy to report that our dear Fergus made a recovery that seems almost miraculous Tuesday evening. But the emotional stress was surmountable.
Thursday brought an evening gala where I was one of the nominee’s for the Brandon YWCA Women of Distinction Awards in the Leadership and Business category. My parents, friends, husband and two stepchildren attended the dinner to support me. Of course my nominators felt I had won my category. But as luck wouldn’t have it I did not. The evening was a success in so many ways that I didn’t feel stung by the loss. Instead I felt grateful for the time and attention which I believe is the intention of the initiative overall. 
The last time I was nominated for something was when I was in grade nine for the role of Social Convenor on Student Council. I won that round. So there has been a gap between nominations and I felt overwhelmed. As the night drew on my family and friends left and I stayed to visit with my two nominators. I had not realized how much the three of us had in common, which was another win. My evening ended when I arrived home to a very happy family with my husband playing hide and go seek with our youngest and the eldest laughing with her boyfriend via telephone. I felt good and I’m sure I smiled. My husband hugged me and asked me with worry in his eyes ‘how are you? How are you really?’
He thought I was putting on a brave face, when in fact I wasn’t; there was nothing to hide. I mean, when you agree to be nominated you have to understand that your win is not guaranteed, so there is some risk involved.  I would have liked to win, who doesn’t want to win? I had hoped if I won I was able to convey my gratitude and show my daughters what success as a women can look like, but God had a different plan. And what I realized was that how I lost might have taught them more than if I had won.
And that of course, made me think of leadership and what an opportunity I was granted to be an example for my daughters. If you think about it – my reaction to losing might have been precedent setting in that it makes allowable certain behaviours when you don’t win. Being able to lose is a very important life skill. From the outside looking in my life may appear charmed or rose coloured, but that is not my reality. I have lost a lot and expect I will continue to lose as my life moves forward. The fact is, I learned how to lose a while ago, just like most of you I suspect. 
You may be placed in a position of leadership by choice or chance, either way it is a constant opportunity to show those around you good sportsmanship, good business and good perspective.  Don’t lose sight of the job you have at hand; win or lose. You are the one they are watching, you are the one who sets the tone and you are the one that provides the bar for them to reach. If you choose to be a servant leader you should be cognizant of the messages you are sending. It would have easy for me to feel like I was less having lost, but I chose to show my team that the nomination, their presence and their acknowledgement was important and was indeed, my win.
By showing gratitude for the process, the people and the accolades I showed my children that losing is all part of life. What we choose to take a way from a loss is exactly that; a choice. And I choose to take away pride in having shown my children and supporter’s good sportsmanship, gratitude and confidence.  Losing didn’t diminish what got me nominated, it just meant it was someone else’s turn or that I have more work to do, both of which are incredibly acceptable outcomes.
Choose to see the lesson, and the fantastic opportunity to teach someone else how to lose. Choose to see the veiled wins, choose to try harder. Choose to be the kind of leader you want others to follow.  Choose.
“Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.”  Joe Paterno
(Joseph Vincent “Joe” Paterno, sometimes referred to as “JoePa”, was an American college football player and coach who was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions from 1966 to 2011.)
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