6 Phases for Managing the Impact of a Leadership Mistake
In any life circumstance when a mistake is recognized, a person has a decision to make: how to handle the erroneous action. Although there are nuances to doing this, well that may depend slightly on the person’s personality.
Managing the Impact of a Leadership Mistake
I believe there are six universal phases (It’s not always a step by step process) to minimizing the magnitude of a leadership mistake.
1. Identify what actually went wrong
Before doing anything else, make sure you understand where you went wrong. If you prematurely accept responsibility and apologize to others, you’ll come across as ill-prepared and uninformed. As a leader, you want to demonstrate to others that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as they are handled professionally and responsibly. Considering getting input from a coach or another manager you trust. So once you know a mistake has been made, do your best to identify what went wrong, acknowledge how you were at fault, and all of the details that made this mistake what it is. This way you can approach your team positively with the facts rather than hearsay or guessed at suppositions.
2. Accept responsibility
With step one under your belt, you’ll be able to accept appropriate levels of responsibility. It’s important not to overstate your role nor to understate your fault, which can be a hard balance to find. This is because if you accept responsibility for everything but others were involved, you are subtly communicating that it’s okay for others to pass the buck, which isn’t the example you want to set. If you don’t accept your role in all of it, you are setting the stage for others to overlook their roles and further problems. Neither of these extremes is helpful.
3. Apologize to the appropriate teams and individuals
Yes, it’s good and decent to acknowledge that you were wrong, but it’s also critical to determine who was affected by your mistake. Too often, managers make a blanket apology that feels insincere and unauthentic. When an apology is done right, you can leave the situation more respected and admired for your courage, humility and honesty. Monitor and manage your emotions and apologize for your part in all of it.
4. Problem-solve if possible and/or outline future considerations
If it’s possible, determine what can be done now to resolve the issue. If it’s too late to clean up the mess, it’s still critical to plan ahead to avoid such faults in the future.
5. Take appropriate action
After identifying the real problem and the potential problem-solving solutions, take action. Delegate tasks, do your part with integrity, and work hard to reduce the repercussions of the mistake.
6. Ask, what can you learn or relearn?
Finally, a key to future success is to focus on continuous improvement. Ask a mentor for feedback about the situation. Think about what you did well. Think about what you can do better next time. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”
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Rick and his business partner Doug published these approaches in their book, Superstar Leadership. They created the Superstar Leadership Model, and online training and coaching as a way to learn and apply the principles.