Once, on our way to Thanksgiving at my aunt’s house, I decided to take a detour and see an old mining town. Crown King was only 20 miles off the interstate, but I did not factor in that we would only go about 20 miles per hour on the gravel road. We were hours late for dinner and my daughter was sick as a dog from the winding road. My aunt of course was pretty mad.

Did my Aunt stay mad? Of course not. I am her favorite nephew (!!) and in time the episode became a family joke. Because we were finally able to laugh about it, the experience enhances our connections and added another anecdote to the family story.

The truth is we will disappoint people. We will disappoint ourselves. Other people will disappoint us.

As leaders, you will be disappointed and you may also be the source of the disappointment. To be the most inspiring leader you can be, I suggest the following:

If it is you:

  • Apologize early and often. The apology can be done publicly or in private as warranted. Ask what can be done to rectify the situation. Be prepared with a suggestion if one is not forthcoming.
  • Organize yourself to prevent the need for apologies. Most of the disappointment from leaders comes from not showing that they value people’s opinions, being unavailable for one on one time, lack of clarity on direction, and the like. Spend time on mastering your time so you are available for vital communications with your team.

If it is others:

Don’t let things fester. If a peer or team member disappoints you, bring it up in a forthright way. Simply say that you had expected something different. It’s possible that there were facts you were not aware of and they can let you know. Or you can have a healthy discussion about how things might be better handled next time. Either way, it is out in the open.

Does every little thing warrant attention? Probably not. But don’t let the things that really impact team and outcomes sit on the back burner and just irritate you.

Disappointment is a predictable part of life, but it how you handle it will determine whether the experience will be positive or negative.