Leaders sometimes place themselves on a mistake free pedestal, and nothing could be further from the truth. As leaders we are bound to make mistakes and I believe those we lead don’t expect mistake free leaders. People are more willing to give grace than we think. It’s just how we deal with mistakes that makes the difference.
So how do you handle the aftermath once a mistake has been realized? I want to provide four quick tips to assist us in handling the mistakes or missteps we make as leaders.
1) Own It
No blame game. No passing the buck. Own your mistake. The first record of the blame game is found in the Bible. Adam and Eve made a huge mistake, they ate the forbidden fruit. When asked about it, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve learned real quick and blamed the serpent.
If something is directly your fault, it’s all the more important to own it fully. Don’t duck it, punt it, or throw someone else under the bus, just own it and press forward.
Don’t try to minimize it by quipping “my bad,” which acknowledges a mistake has been made but doesn’t necessarily address it. If something goes wrong, be the first to say, “Hey, I made a mistake and want to apologize for my actions.”
2) Resolve It
After you’ve owned it, be sure you seek ways to turn a negative into a positive. Dive in and seek to fix the misstep. Because sometimes our mistakes affect others, this isn’t always an overnight resolution. Therefore, it is important that repeated follow up is given to ensure the misstep is fully resolved.
3) Ask It
How do you ask it? I am glad you asked.
When I say ask it, I am not saying talk to a mistake, but rather ask yourself what can I learn from this mistake? What went wrong? Where was the breakdown? Was I distracted? Did I make the wrong decision? Once you ask yourself a series of questions, it is wise to acknowledge what changes you would make or do differently next time.
4) Learn It
I recall making a mistake once as a leader. Something that was asked of me and other leaders failed to get accomplished. I owned it, I resolved it, and then asked myself what can I do to ensure this doesn’t happen again. So I created a weekly tracker. There are several sections on this tracker, which includes a checklist of the major things needed to get accomplished daily/weekly, major appointments and any additions as directed by senior leadership. In asking myself what went wrong and making the necessary adjustments, I was able to rectify the issue and increase my productivity by implementing a fail safe.
We all make mistakes, but learning and growing as a result is vital to our overall success. Be sure to extend to yourself in the process. Remember the words of Roy Williams, “A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.”
Today I encourage you to be wise, and if you haven’t reached that level yet, at least be smart. Make today great, Be great!