Own your mistakes

We all know the theoretical strategies for when mistakes happen and for most, they’re easy to implement for the little things.

The latest raft of issues about our covid-19 response however, highlights so many things NOT to do.

Now this isn’t a political discussion because I’m pretty sure the poor handling of the mistakes could have been the strategy for most Governments in this situation.

Don’t try and hide your mistakes. It doesn’t make the problem go away, in fact it will probably make it worse. It also pays to remember that in this information rich world, it is next to impossible to keep mistakes hidden. Your staff will reflect on how you hide issues and in turn look to keep their mistakes from you – is that what you want?

A saying in politics is actually very appropriate for all settings – “it’s not the mistake that takes you down, it’s the cover up”. When people discover the mistake, and the fact that you have tried to hide it, they become angry at your deception and lose trust in you.

You have to own your mistakes. As a leader, the buck stops with you. The very old saying of credit is for the team and criticism is fore the leader remains true to this day. Do not claim that you were not responsible for the error and it was a mistake of someone within the team. People don’t want a witch hunt but they do want accountability. Owning the error shows that, as a leader, you have taken responsibility and it gives people the assurance that you are ‘in control’. On the other hand, if you try and pass on the blame, people will see you as someone more interested in maintaining your reputation than helping solve the problem.

“Throwing your staff under the bus” is one of the quickest ways to lose their respect and trust.  The impact of doing this is so significantly damaging and so very hard to recover from, that it is one of the surest ways to destroy a team.

Don’t hide it, don’t lie about it, and don’t blame someone else. Take responsibility, front foot both the release of information and the action to remedy the situation.

Mistakes happen – it’s how you manage them that will define you as a leader.


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