When New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick lost the AFC Championship to the Baltimore Ravens he declined to be interviewed by CBS, leading sports analyst Shannon Sharpe to remark:
“There’s something to be said about being gracious in defeat. We’ve seen the New England Patriots five times in the last 12 years be victorious. And we’ve seen the opposing coaches that lost come out and speak to our Steve Tasker. Coach [Bill] Cowher [who was sitting next to Sharpe] did it when they lost. We saw this last week. Bill Belichick makes it very easy for you to root against the Patriots. You can’t be a poor sport all the time. You’re not going to win every time. And he does this every time he loses. It is unacceptable.”
It serves as a great reminder that your reputation is measured not just by your successes but by how you publicly handle your failures. When you or your reputation doesn’t come out on top in a given situation, avoid:
- Sulking – when you sulk, you look like a bad loser. It makes it harder for someone to celebrate your successes when they see you whining in defeat.
- Hiding -don’t scurry off to some corner of the room–or the internet–and stick your head in the sand. Your failure doesn’t go away just because you don’t acknowledge it.
- Excuses – while you can certainly explain the circumstances–and you can definitely talk about what you plan to improve for the future–now is not the time to make excuses about why you didn’t live up to expectations.
- Blaming – when you blame someone else for your defeat, troubles, or failures, you send a message to your stakeholders that you are not interested in taking ownership of what you did to contribute to the situation.
When we’ve failed, we feel at our most vulnerable. That’s also when our reputation is at its most vulnerable.