Bounce Back from Failure

5 Ways Business Leaders Can Bounce Back from Failure or Trying Times

  • You’ve hit rock bottom — or maybe it feels like you’ve hit rock bottom after a nasty mistake. As a business leader, you can’t let that stop you. Three noteworthy business leaders explain how you can bounce back.
  • When you’re at the bottom, you have to accept accountability and solicit feedback. This is the core of the whole “learn from your mistakes” adage. Be transparent with your team, and listen.
  • “Pressure makes diamonds,” says George Papadeas, COO of The HOTH. “If you’re feeling this pressure, there’s a reason. And if you have it, you know that you could turn this situation into a diamond or into something even better than where you are already.”

The thing is — and not to sound too cliche but — we all make mistakes. It’s inevitable. We’re human. What’s important is how you face these mistakes, how you bounce (or climb or crawl or sprint) back from them. As a business leader, you can’t let these mistakes paralyze you. You’ve got to keep moving.

But how?

When you’re at the bottom, it might feel like you’ll never come back. But on a recent episode of The BOLD Business Podcast, three business leaders — Paul Birkett, CEO of Automation Finance; George Papadeas, COO of The HOTH; and Dominic Rufran, CEO of The Game of The Wealthy — share tactics you can use to bounce back.

Bouncing Back: 5 Rules of Thumb to Follow

When you hit rock bottom, it’s easy to wallow. Throw in the towel. Call it a day. Pack it up. We’re done.

But you certainly didn’t get to where you are as a business leader with that mentality. If you’re struggling to bounce back, use this powerful insight to help you get back on track.

1. Know When to Slow Down and Reflect

As a business leader, when you make a mistake, your first instinct may be to barrel forward. But that’s not your smartest move. Instead, take some time to slow down and reflect.

Ask: What happened? What do I need to do to bounce back? Who do I need to bounce back?

We like to call this a present retreat — carved out the protected time you can use to reflect by yourself. Make lists, write a journal entry, do what you need to do to figure out what went wrong and how you can move forward.


  1. Take stock: How does your organizational infrastructure hold up during times of rapid change and uncertainty?
  2. Understand what you need: What do we focus on? How do we focus on it?
  3. Lean into your team: Get vulnerable and ask for help. “I think something we forget as a business owner, operator, leaders, manager, whatever the label, is to ask for help,” Papadeas says. “I think that’s the biggest piece of it, and it goes back to vulnerability, as well.”
  4. Examine your industry: Take a look at your current setup versus industry trends. What do you need to do to adapt? How can you strengthen industry relationships? What do you need to do to attract customers?
  5. Tap into opportunity: If someone is offering help, don’t be afraid to accept it.

As you take this time to reflect, you’ll hopefully gain more clarity around the situation and find ways to bounce back.

2. Accept Accountability and Encourage Feedback

In line with hitting pause and taking time to reflect, it’s also essential you stop to accept accountability and encourage feedback.

This, Papadeas says, is how you’re going to be able to grow your company.

“Pure accountability actually is the hardest part of all of this,” Papadeas admits.

This is especially true when you’re super close and friendly with your colleagues. But keep this in mind: When you don’t take action, you’re stunting the growth of your business.

Listening to feedback is also key. Sometimes we get defensive when we face feedback — that’s human — but take a second to breathe and become an active listener. 

George Papadeas - p247 - Bounce Back From the Bottom

“To be the best leader, you have to be the best listener,” Papadeas says. “When it comes to being a leader when it comes to learning from mistakes, you have to be able to really piece everything together from the perspective of the other person.”

Whenever Papadeas makes a mistake, he’s sure to own it — whether it’s in a company town hall meeting or on an individual basis. This encourages his team to also take accountability for their mistakes and learn together.

3. Stay Focused on Your North Star

Remember when you were a kid and your parents would get bumpers for you at the bowling alley? That way you actually had a chance of hitting some pins, because the bumpers helped keep your ball on track.

Well, let’s apply this metaphor over in the business world. As a business leader, you are a company’s bowling bumpers. It’s your responsibility to set the standards and expectations for your team — to find your North Star (or mission) and guide everyone to it.

Paul Birkett - p247 - Bounce Back From the Bottom

“Within a corporate environment, you’ve got high-performing people,” Birkett explains. “They all have agendas. Your objective is to make sure that their agenda aligns with your objectives — or at least doesn’t go across them in some way that stops you from getting to where you want to go.”

Sure, you can and should listen to everyone’s ideas and solutions, but it’s up to you to determine that North Star and be open and transparent in your overall objectives. This way, everyone stays on the same page and is fighting for the same thing.

4. Practice Discipline

If you’re working your way back up, know it’s going to take discipline — a whole lot of it.

“If you don’t have discipline, you can’t accomplish anything,” Rufran says. “The individuals that do something one or two times and then fall off the bandwagon and then don’t continuously pursue it, those are the ones that aren’t going to achieve their goals.”

Rufran, who formerly played in the NFL, can recall days where he was by himself in the weight room or on the field — doing what others weren’t doing — so he could progress to the next level in football.

Dominic Rufran - p247 - Bounce Back From the Bottom

“Discipline is doing the hard things when you specifically don’t want to do them,” he says.

For instance, Rufran knew waking up at 5 a.m. to ride his bike to the weight room in negative-30-degree temps wasn’t something he wanted to do. But he did. And the discipline paid off.

“Discipline, I think, comes from having that purpose, having that passion, having a reason why,” Rufran explains. “And eventually, over time, you just create really good habits for yourself that your body just pushes you through.”

In the business world, this might translate to your morning routine — waking up, working out, eating a healthy breakfast. Or it might mean you attend that weekly stakeholder’s meeting (ugh). It may even mean you carve out two hours every Friday to reflect, despite it feeling near impossible to slow down.

When the going gets tough, you have to keep going and practice discipline to get you and your business where you want it to be.

5. Don’t Let External Pressure Get to You

When you’ve made a mistake or you’re hitting rock bottom, it’s easy to succumb to external pressure. And while, yes, you do need to lean on other people (see: tips No. 1 and 2), it’s also important to set boundaries and not let the pressure get to you.

Think about this: On an airplane, in the safety debriefing, they always tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. It’s the same thing in business. You’ve got to take care of yourself, and then you can help others around you. 

One way to relieve some external pressure is to surround yourself with good people you really, truly trust. That way, when something goes wrong, you aren’t necessarily going to panic. You know you’ve got a whole team of people who have your back and will help you bounce back.

And guess what? A little bit of pressure isn’t always a bad thing. It can act as an accelerant.

“Pressure makes diamonds,” Papadeas reminds us. “If you’re feeling this pressure, there’s a reason. And if you have it, you know that you could turn this situation into a diamond.”

For Papadeas, he knows he’s feeling the pressure because people trust him with that pressure, and they’re relying on him to pull through. That shift from “pressure is bad” to “pressure is responsibility” helps him power through, because he wants to come out on top for himself and his team.

So don’t let the pressure be a bad thing. If you learn to embrace it, that’s when you can really turn things around and bounce back.

And, at the end of the day, remember this: “You’re going to make mistakes, and if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough,” Birkett says.

Bounce Back From the Bottom

Want to learn more about how to bounce back from a mistake or failure? See what else Birkett, Papadeas and Rufran had to say on the topic in our podcast episode, “Bounce Back From The Bottom.” Don’t forget to subscribe to The BOLD Business Podcast for more insights on leadership and success.

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