You’ve made a mistake at work. It’s visible, consequential, and embarrassing. Here’s the good news: It’s a chance to prove you’re a leader.
The way you respond to a mistake reveals much about your makeup. If you hide, deny or shuffle responsibility onto others, you sabotage your reputation. But by acknowledging what went wrong and your role in it, you command respect.
“When you as a manager make a mistake, you’re the role model for your employees,” said Bette Price, president of the Price Group, a management consulting firm in Dallas. “If you deal with it in a straightforward manner, it solidifies trust among your team and humanizes you to your employees.”
Effective leaders not only explain what happened and why, but also volunteer what steps they’re taking to correct the mistake. This shows they learned a lesson and will apply it going forward. When Price counsels managers to admit their errors, she guides them to address the mishap in three steps.
- First, she instructs them to say: “Here’s what happened …”
- After summarizing faulty decisions that they made, managers should declare: “I’m accountable for this.” With this statement, you assure listeners that you don’t expect a free pass.
- The final step is to extract a lesson for the future, Price says. The manager might add, “I’m sharing this with you so that we can all learn from my mistake.”
“When you say all of these things in a sincere voice tone, you come across as a strong leader,” Price said. “By being candid, you improve morale and establish trust.”
If you’re tempted to acknowledge your mistake in writing, think again. Even if you confront the situation head-on, include all the details and apologize, your memo may fall flat because “you lose the sincerity that comes through with your voice,” Price says.
Above all, don’t make excuses. State the facts without editorializing. “You’ll appear defensive if you start giving excuses,” Price warned. You’ll also signal to employees that you accept excuses. The next time they mess up, they’ll follow your lead and spread blame around. If you want all your workers to hear the same message, discuss your mistake at a staff meeting. While it’s often uncomfortable to admit error in front of a group, the benefit of addressing it in an open forum can help you move past it.
Source: Morey Stettner