If you are a new leader or manager, your team automatically looks up to you and seeks your advice and direction. That’s a double-edged sword. The door of respect is open, but that door can close if you make a wrong move. If you ignore your mistake, deflect or blame someone else, the door can slam shut for good. You lose respect and your team becomes increasingly dysfunctional.
Timing is everything when it comes to handling mistakes. Here are three ways to keep the door open when you mess up, and three ways to support a team member who may also fall on his face:
When a leader makes a mistake:
- Recognize and admit it right away.
- Identify what went wrong (wild guess: poor communication).
- Elicit advice from your team on how to prevent such mistakes in the future.
This method will go a long way in keeping your team tight. If the leader is transparent, the whole team can empathize and get over it quickly. The path to success is never a straight one. Mistakes can serve as learning tools to getting teams back on track.
When an employee makes a mistake:
- Identify the mistake in private immediately.
- Elicit employee feedback as to how the mistake could have been prevented.
- Support the employee in tandem during the next team meeting, as she or he addresses the group as to how such mistakes can be avoided in the future.
When human groups work together, mistakes are an inevitable part of the process. Leaders send a clear message when they present mistakes on center stage and involve the team in finding ways to move back in the right direction.
Transparency also facilitates a positive work culture. When team members know they won’t be bludgeoned into the earth if a mistake happens, they feel less stress and are willing to be creative and take risks in moving the team objectives forward.