Mistakes can be a good thing

Mistakes can be a good thing

“When someone makes a mistake, it is a great learning experience.”
— Meryl Runion

If you overreact to every little mistake, you will discourage your people from taking risks. If they don’t take risks, creativity will stall. Prove to your staff that you are accepting of errors—within reason—and then show them how they can learn from every mistake. When someone errs at work, follow this process:

  • Maintain your cool. If you start yelling or throwing out insults, your employee will become defensive or tune you out. Stay calm and remain respectful. If you are truly outraged, take some time to calm down before you address the problem. 
     
  • Point out the error to the employee. Do it as soon as you are aware of the problem. Don’t put it off; it’s better to discuss the issue when the actions that led to the mistake are still fresh in the employee’s mind. 
     
  • Offer the person a chance to give his or her viewpoint. The person may not have had the correct information or might offer some other justifiable reason. Don’t immediately assume that carelessness or spitefulness is to blame. 
     
  • Together discuss how to correct the mistake. You may need to show the employee how to do something correctly, or the two of you may need to come up with a damage-control plan. Don’t just tell the person what to do. Involve him or her in coming up with a solution and implementing it. That is critical to making it a learning opportunity and not a reprimand. 
     
  • Clarify your expectations. Before you leave, confirm that the person understands what needs to happen next time. Just avoid the “this better not happen again” shtick that many bosses employ.
     
  • Sum up what you learned. Simply ask the employee “So what did we learn from this?” Then you might say “I learned that you are committed to your job because of how determined you were to find a solution to that problem.” 
     
  • Thank the employee. Don’t end the discussion without first telling the person that you are grateful that he or she remained professional and solution-focused during the meeting, rather than offering excuses or pointing fingers. 

What else can you do to spur creativity and inspire your staff? Find out how in the brand-new training kit Inspired Leadership: Propel Your Employees to New Heights. Gain advice for more effectively leading your team or organization. Learn the keys to becoming a respected and trusted leader, to building employee loyalty, and to driving creativity at every level in your organization.


New to leadership or know someone who is? Follow the Bud to Boss Blog or subscribe to the Bud to Boss Take 5 e-letter for management and leadership advice written specifically for first-time supervisor.

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