We all screw up sometime. Maybe a careless moment or a poor evaluation of the circumstance. There are consequences when mistakes are made. I have been “blessed” many times with being clean-up crew when there is a big mess that needs to be cleaned up.
The fact is mistakes are how we learn. I have really come to realize this as I have gotten older and gained more experience. There are so many times I get that “deja vu” feeling because I am in a similar circumstance I’ve been before and I remember the proper way to navigate out of it. Experience is huge and you can’t always make up for it.
I have watched mistakes happen and I have watched how various leaders handle the problem. There is one thing that I have learned that never seems to work in fixing a mess. This is using blame.
When you are in the midst of fixing a bad situation the worst thing you can do is to immediately go to blame. There is a time and a place to analyze and discuss the failures that led to the problem, but going to blame will only magnify the issue.
You will likely isolate the person who messed up.
They will feel that it was all their fault.
They will feel attacked.
They will not be in an effective position to help you fight your way out of the mess.
When one of your reports messes up its for a reason, in the vast majority of cases, the person responsible for the screw up is the person you see in the mirror. They were not trained properly. They were overwhelmed and you should have provided help. They weren’t ready for the assignment. They didn’t have the proper resources. It’s not them- it’s you!
So why are we quick to blame? It’s our own ego and pride response. We blame to protect ourselves. Protect our perfect standing. It couldn’t be me? I did everything right!
After the dust settles and emotions die down, then you can take a look at the mistakes that were made. The only way for learning is to confront the mistakes that were made and make changes so they don’t happen again. This is the learning experience. This is life. The best lessons are learned out of pain. It’s not fun- but it’s true. When you have a mess, concentrate on clean up. Jump in and help make it right. Then, after things are fixed, take a good look at what happened and fix the problem. Time to heal allows for objectivity and reflection.
Stay away from blame. When you feel like you need to play the blame card- STOP AND THINK- about your role in the problem and understand what you are really doing when you blame. A great leader will accept responsibility. They understand that they are not perfect. They are emotionally mature enough to know that they can make mistakes sometimes and they accept the failures of their reports.
Jump in and fix the problem. Keep your mouth shut. Talk about what happened later.