As a leader, you will encounter times when the people that you lead make mistakes. How you respond to the mistakes that your team makes will have a far-reaching influence on your organization’s culture, the morale of your team, and the performance of your team. Reacting well to mistakes that a team member makes can increase your influence as a leader while encouraging better performance from your team. Dealing poorly with a mistake can conversely have a profound negative impact on your team and can lead to poor performance and a culture where your team is encouraged not to report mistakes or improve themselves.
Recognize That Your Team’s Mistake is Your Mistake
As the leader of your team, the responsibility for the mistakes that members of your team make is ultimately yours. While some leaders may view the mistakes that those they lead make as not their fault, it is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that their team has the processes, training, knowledge, and ability that is needed to succeed. Being sure that you have a correct perspective of whose responsibility the mistake ultimately is will help you to approach the situation with the right attitude.
Evaluate the Cause of the Mistake
Some leaders are quick to blame the person who made the mistake in the first place. While the mistake certainly may have been caused by individual error, mistakes are often due to a process that requires improvement, a lack of knowledge or education within the team, or because there are resources that are lacking for the team to succeed. Before blaming the individual, be sure to critically evaluate your overall process. Once you have identified the reason that the mistake initially occurred, you will be empowered to correct the mistake and ensure that it does not occur again in the future.
Recognize Solutions to the Mistake
Having a solutions-oriented approach will help your team to see that you ultimately care about their ability to succeed in your organization’s goals. Developing solutions to the mistake involves two key steps. The first is to address the immediate problems resulting from the mistake. Some mistakes will be correctable and should be corrected as soon as possible. Other mistakes will have lasting consequences. In these situations, the goal will be to lessen the effects that the mistake has on your organization and your team. The second key step to solving mistakes is to remedy the conditions that led to the mistake occurring. Perhaps it is a process level issue that requires education or additional resources. Other times it may be an individual issue that requires coaching or an individual improvement plan.
Recognize Mistakes as an Opportunity for Growth
If your team members are making mistakes, that is not necessarily a bad thing. People have to make mistakes to some extent in order to learn and grow. Your job as a leader is not to make sure that mistakes never occur, but to allow for an environment where team members are encouraged to try new things while being in an environment that the mistakes that they could make are not going to have a serious negative effect. If no one working on your team is ever making mistakes, it means that your team is not pushing themselves and learning. Creating an environment where small mistakes can be made will help your team to grow.
Empower Your Team Members
Empowering your team involves creating a culture where individuals are encouraged to share mistakes and learn to find solutions to mistakes when they occur. Your team members will feel empowered when they feel that they are part of a culture where mistakes are a learning opportunity for them or for the team. This type of culture encourages people to report mistakes and grow. Empowering your team will also allow you to delegate more responsibilities as a leader, freeing you to focus more on the overall goal and direction of your team instead of becoming lost in the minutia of your team’s work.
Correct to Improve, Not to Punish
Sometimes, mistakes occur because of the actions of an individual and need to be addressed with that individual. While individual conversations, coaching, and even corrective actions are necessary, the goal with these interventions should be to improve your team, not to punish the individual. If your team members understand that your goal is the improvement of your team, not punishment of the individual, they will better appreciate you as a leader and be more empowered to succeed. Taking an improvement approach also helps your team to have improved morale. Even if you have to terminate a team member, it will be better received by your team if they understand that you did it to improve your team rather than to punish the individual.
Your team members will make mistakes if you are fostering an environment that encourages them to grow and develop. It is important to remember that, as a leader, how you respond to those mistakes will influence your team’s professional growth and development.