How to Bounce Back from Mistakes
Updated: Sep 6
Our previous blog talked about the fact that you, as a leader, will inevitably make mistakes.
Personally, it’s a very uncomfortable position. Organizationally, it leads to challenges as it creates uncertainty among employees and customers. In such moments, all eyes are on you, waiting and watching to see what you will do.
Though your instinct may be telling you to fight or run and hide, you and those you lead are best served by taking the following steps:
1) Acknowledge the blunder
Regardless of the circumstances that contributed to the situation, you’ll want to show that you are aware of what went wrong, the consequences that ensued, and how it affected others. Failure to do this paints you as out of touch and disconnected from reality. This breeds more distrust and sinks morale.
2) Own it
When leaders admit and take responsibility for their mistakes trust is strengthened, respect remains intact, and people feel safe. This models what you want to see in your employees.
As Chris McCloskey from Dale Carnegie Training explains, “Leaders who then fail to admit they were wrong leave employees feeling as though their leaders consider being right more important than being honest. Taking responsibility demonstrates that leaders value integrity over the easier paths of laying blame or hoping their mistake won’t be exposed.”
When trust, respect, and safety are present, employees will go the distance for you.
3) Analyze why the mistake happened
Take time to gather information and understand all the variables that contributed to the error. Even when the mistake could not have been predicted, the mindset should always be, “We can do better.” Use the analysis to formulate a plan for repairing the damage and preventing future occurrences. Check out our blog about debriefing which offers a template for doing this.
4) Create, implement and communicate the solution.
Once the error has been assessed, design and implement a strategy for resolving it. Mistakes are often indicative of larger issues that need attention such as flawed processes or inadequate systems. Involve your team in this process so that the solution is informed by multiple perspectives. Then communicate the solution to your stakeholders. This signals that you take the problem seriously and are willing to grow from it.
While mistakes are a painful part of leading, everyone benefits when you can face them with humility, transparency, integrity and an openness to receiving help. Doing so puts you on a productive path to resolution and strengthens morale and dedication within the organization.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog on ways to communicate that you are owning your mistake