Depending on how a leader approaches his or her mistakes, the experience can be humbling, humiliating, or rewarding. 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. Of course, that depends greatly on your willingness to own up to the problem.
Managing the Impact of a Leadership Mistake
Review these six universal phases to minimizing the magnitude of a leadership mistake. These do not necessarily make up a step-by-step process because problems are always so coherent.
Identify what went wrong.
Before doing anything else, make sure you understand where you went wrong. If you prematurely accept responsibility and apologize to others, you will come across as ill-prepared and uninformed. As a leader, you want to demonstrate to others that it is okay to make mistakes, if 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 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.
With step one under your belt, now accept appropriate levels of responsibility. It is 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 is okay for others to pass the buck, which is not the example you want to set. If you do not 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 help.
Apologize to the appropriate teams and individuals.
Yes, acknowledge that you were wrong. It is an honorable way to act. Also, 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, leave the situation with more respect and admiration for your courage, humility, and honesty. Monitor and manage your emotions and apologize for your part in all of it.
Problem-solve if possible and/or outline future considerations.
Determine what can be done now to resolve the issue. If it is too late to clean up the mess. Remember, planning eliminates many issues or mistakes.
Take appropriate action.
After identifying the real problem and the potential problem-solving solutions, act. Delegate tasks do your part with integrity and work hard to reduce the repercussions of the mistake.
Ask, what can you learn or relearn?
This phase requires self-reflection, learning, and personal development. Ask yourself this question-honestly. Get input from those you trust and value. This is where you grow and do better next time.
Summary for Handling a Leadership Mistake
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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