When Leaders Make Mistakes….

Posted by Paul Beard on 6/17/19 3:09 PM
Paul Beard
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Everyone, no matter who they are, from the office rookie right up to the President of an organization, makes mistakes at work. When you are a manager or a leader of a team, however, those mistakes are magnified. As a leader, whatever the reason for your error, it is vital that you are accountable and own up to your error.

While it’s important for all employees, in a leadership role it is non-negotiable for a number of reasons:

It Instills Confidence In Your Team

By admitting your faux pas, it reiterates your willingness to be accountable for your actions. It also makes you human (always a good quality) and shows courage – which is a vital leadership quality.

It Earns Respect

Your team are much more likely to respect you for both admitting your errors and putting things right.

You Lead By Example

In acknowledging your error you are demonstrating to your team the right way to handle your mistake.

Accountability Removes Anxiety

As a leader, if you admit to an error, it removes the anxiety from employees who get things wrong. An environment which encourages open communication will help to build team morale and prevent trivial issues from developing into insurmountable ones.


A Blueprint To Owning Your Mistake

Understanding why you need to admit your error is one thing; dealing with it is another. At SkyWater, we encourage an open, transparent culture. Based on our experience, we suggest the following:

  • Apologize – whether it’s to your boss, the board of the company, your team, the shareholders, or in some cases the public, apologize to anyone who is directly or indirectly affected by the consequences of your actions. Getting defensive may be a natural response but it doesn’t work. As a leader, now is the time to stand up and be counted.
  • Make it right if possible– If there’s any way or reversing or rectifying the situation, then that is your next logical step. It’s not always feasible of course, in which case, your next move must be to minimize the negative impact of your error. For example, if you are responsible for a bad hire, take the necessary steps to secure a suitable replacement.
  • Learn from your mistake - The best leaders see mistakes as learning opportunities. If it was the result of a risk you took, don’t be put off from taking future risks but be sure to review and analyze everything you did to gain a full understanding of what went wrong. Treat this situation as a learning and growth opportunity, not just for yourself but your team and for your company. Knowing how to overcome your error is the difference between maintaining the trust of those around you and maybe even losing your job.

The buck stops here...

When it comes to admitting your mistake, there’s no easy way out of it. Our advice is to make a full apology and avoid attempting to mitigate circumstances with a ‘but’. As a leader you must stick to the facts and not offer excuses for what’s happened.

Before making your apology, however, you must also be clear on what you will do to resolve the matter. This is all part of being accountable. Finally, you must ensure your words are supported by your actions and fulfill any promises you make in order to put things right. Failure to do so will result in you losing the confidence of your team.

Experience is the only way that most of us learn but the sometimes the public nature of these lessons can make them more difficult. By accepting responsibility for your actions you are demonstrating the skills of a true leader. What’s more, mistakes made in the working environment are often opportunities for personal growth too and ultimately help good managers to develop into great leaders


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