Messed Up as a Leader? Here’s How to Bounce Back and Recover
Published on March 9, 2017

Messed Up as a Leader? Here’s How to Bounce Back and Recover

Everyone messes up from time to time. It’s one of the big reasons people avoid leadership positions and why so many people are scared to take action. It’s all about responsibility.

As a leader, you need to make decisions and sometimes you’ll mess up. It’s not just a part of leadership, handling mistakes in life is something you need to do effectively no matter what level you are at.

How are you currently dealing with mistakes? The right frame of mind will ensure you keep calm and carry on.

When you’ve made a mistake it’s probably because:

1. You’re human. Congratulations, it’s a good thing to know.
2. You don’t have a crystal ball that tells the future.
3. You don’t have access to all the information you need all the time.

The important thing is that you make the decision and get things moving. The worst thing you can do as a leader is to do nothing and allow a situation to get away from you.

Keep making those decisions with the skills and information you have available, no matter what. As we say in the study of NLP, everybody is doing their best with the resources they have available to them. Bouncing back from mistakes is the sign of great leadership.

Dealing With Mistakes

Here’s how to make dealing with mistakes an easy and effective part of your leadership skill set.

Own up to your mistakes:
You can always find someone else to blame; the situation, bad luck, or justify why something isn’t your fault but the most empowering way to bounce back from a mistake is to accept full responsibility and learn the lesson inside it. At Live it Now we call this Cause vs Effect.

Even if you relied on someone who let you down, there are multiple lessons to take, like checking in with your team, better communication or an open conversation about the work that would lead to better results and better leadership.

An ignored mistake festers and can become a major incident down the line, so work on each leadership mistake as it happens and tie off any loose ends so that you and your project move forward swiftly and effectively.

Maintain a high sense of urgency:
This involves an ability to keep things in perspective, measure the risk, and take fast action.

Handling mistakes in life is not about avoiding mistakes, it’s what you do after them that matters and is what people will respect you for.

To be a reliable and competent leader you will stay calm even in the face of a mistake or mishap, treat it with the level of urgency that it deserves, and allocate tasks to others that will ensure an effective cleanup and ultimate customer satisfaction

People look to their leader most in a time of crisis, so be sure to be there as part of the clean up following a mistake, to give direction, and maintain calm.

Play the leadership game with an open hand:
Hidden problems that aren’t dealt with are the biggest threats in the long term.

Encourage ownership and communication within your team, and lead by example to ensure everyone talks about risks, issues, near misses and times when they can see improvement.

Having your team’s cooperation will ensure that mistakes are uncovered and that the team works together to find a creative resolution. Treat these as wins and signs of good leadership and reward yourself and your team for doing a good job.

Uncover the root cause:
Really spend some constructive time dismantling the situation. Determine where it started, what caused it, and also where you contributed.

This needs to be done without emotion and not as a witch hunt, but rather to improve internal systems.

Look at things as a completely neutral observer to be able to use your intellect and intuition. The moment any emotion is brought into the equation, anger, fear, embarrassment, your judgement will become clouded and the facts blurred.

If you find yourself becoming emotional try taking six deep breaths or wait until the effect of the situation has passed.

As we say at Live it Now, when emotion goes up, intelligence goes down!

Realise the patterns:
Once you routinely uncover the cause of mistakes you will see a pattern in your performance that indicates a wound or area where you are avoiding or inflicting pain.

Once you are aware of where these ‘sore’ spots are you can take action to strengthen your skills by adopting a new approach or dealing with the underlying internal conflicts that are causing the patterns to occur.

If you need help uncovering these patterns, download my free Belief Buster and listen to it during a quiet time at home.

Overcoming Mistakes in Business

If you and your team are making mistakes, well done, it means you are pushing new boundaries, stepping out of your comfort zone, and adopting new techniques.

Repeat mistakes do need to be dealt with, it might be an indicator that a team member is not a good fit in your project or that there is an underlying issue that needs addressing.

It’s important to deal with the issue as well as the symptoms.

Have a policy in place where the same mistake is not made twice, allow everyone to work together to repair and limit the damage.

Most of all, allow people to make mistakes. When other people, as well as yourself, see mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow, they will be more effective as a team and you will have more information to be able to make effective decisions as a leader.

In fact, it’s almost impossible to learn a new skill without making mistakes so knowing that it’s an essential part of the process, you can factor mistakes into your time and budget as well as your safety requirements to minimise harm to people and business.

Support your team in the mistakes they make and show them how to turn them into lessons. Once you and everyone around you can see the positives of mistakes you’ll see greater ownership, greater responsibility taken and greater growth for your people and your business.

Kindest regards,

Matt Catling

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