We’re not perfect, although some of us act like we are! The ways in which we handle our goof-ups, guffaws, screw-ups, bad decisions, miscalculations, and blunders are critical - our reputations are at stake. And as managers, we should role model the behaviors we seek in others. In High Impact Middle Management, I wrote about "Harry," a manager who was defensive and quick to throw his employees under the bus. Don't be like Harry. Here are 10 ideas for how to react to and recover from mistakes.
Admit it before anyone knows about the mistake. In his classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie suggests that the best way to handle mistakes is to admit them as soon as they occur and before others begin to react. Carnegie recommends we admit our mistakes with some energy and certainty like, “I’ve just made the following mistake: ____. I really messed it up! Here is what I am going to do to fix it. So sorry everyone!” By being the first to notice and admit the mistake, you will diffuse people's reaction and turn their attention to helping you solve the problem.
Don’t try to hide mistakes! It drives people, especially bosses, crazy when we deny or try to cover up our mistakes. Like Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart”, nobody wants an undiscovered mistake looming in his or her career. This is surely a recipe for disaster, because eventually these things come to light. Mistakes can be corrected, but it is difficult to repair a spoiled reputation.
Apologize Sincerely. Mistakes will cause some inconvenience and create a waste of time, costs, or effort. Let people know that you sincerely regret the inconvenience your mistake has caused.
Ask questions that show you care. Unless we learn from our mistakes, history will likely repeat itself. Take the time to better understand how to prevent similar errors in the future.
Let team members help you to recover. Once you have admitted your error, your team members will want to help turn the situation around. Accept their help! Sometimes we are neurotic about allowing others to help us, which, ironically, hurts those around us. Our team members are there for us, just like we will be there for them when they need it.
Move quickly into problem solving. The only thing that drives people crazier than someone denying a mistake is when he or she is slow to fix it! It’s true, this happens all the time. A quick recovery is particularly important when mistakes inconvenience others.
Reverse the mistake if possible. If you have made a bad decision, don’t stick with it and suck the whole team down with you. Undo it if possible.
Treat yourself consistently. The ways in which you handle your mistakes should look and feel similar to the ways in which you handle mistakes made by others. We should neither be tougher nor more tolerant of ourselves. A mistake is just a preventable problem looking for a quick solution.
Clear your head if needed. Frustrated by your mistakes? Before you act, take a walk around the block. It is in moments of great stress and frustration that we do stupid things, so don’t compound the problem by sending an email you will likely regret later! If you need to, vent with a trusted friend.
Update others on the progress of the fix. Once a blunder is out in the open, follow up a couple of times so they know all is under control. This will instill confidence and create closure.
Source: Management Craft