Learn  how to lose 

It’s Wimbledon so the sports pages have an interview with John McEnroe. He who was as famous for his on court tantrums as his skills with a racket. He was a serial winner who said he had to learn how to lose. It reminded me of interviews for senior management posts. 


There were four of us in for the Directors post. We were being chaperoned by the executive recruiter the night before the panel interviews. We sat in the bar. With an alcoholic drink in our hands she decided to impart some wisdom. Because she was guiding us through the recruitment process and was an former Director we listened closely hoping to gain something that might help us in the next days interviews. She said you are all strong candidates and have done well to get this far. I know that in the past you will always have got the posts you went for but obviously tomorrow three of you….My mind  was spinning. “ ……you have always got the post you went for”. Well not me , at every stage I had failures and disappointments. My first management post was gained at the second attempt. I wouldn’t have even applied for the next post because it was a secondment rather than a permanent post if I hadn’t failed to get the one I really wanted. Turned out to be a great career move giving me experiences I could never have got in my first choice post. My sights, expectations and self belief were raised,no way was I going back to my substantive post. So I took a gamble on a different sector. It didn’t work out forcing me to take a backward set . I honestly can’t remember how many Assistant Director interviews I attended before being successful.( My wife and kids would be able to give the details because the process takes it’s toll on the whole family).  And to cap it all this was not my first shot at a Directors post.

I think the recruitment consultant meant well, she was saying most people don’t get a Directors post at the first attempt so don’t be despondent if it’s not you this time. Your time will come. Which of course is reassuring and encouraging but the idea that those I was competing against had got this far without ever having a set back shocked me and shook my confidence. Years latter it occurs to me that I might not have been the only one who had experience the deflating feeling of rejection. After all I didn’t own up to being someone who had past experiences of failure so maybe the others also had recent experience of not getting appointed.

I didn’t get the job. I bounced back. Like McEnroe said even winners need to learn to lose. 


Blair Mcpherson former Director author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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