The Point: Leadership can certainly pose challenges to those that lead in and of itself. Rarely is leadership a game of perfection and mistakes will be made. We started thinking here at the Javelin Institute, if leadership perfection is rarely the case, then how does a leader overcome the mistakes they make? So, in this post, we’ll explore the leadership challenge of mistakes… Enjoy!
I Make Mistakes – I Own Them!
Jessica was a first-time manager in her department. A long-tenured employee (employed with the organization over 20-years), she has seen her fair share of leadership mistakes over the years. Vowing that if she ever got her “shot” at becoming a leader, she’d do things totally different and make perfection the goal on her way towards leadership success. A great goal, but one that was immediately proven unrealistic.
Jessica’s first team assignment went something like this: Her boss informed her of the task. She informed her team of the task without architecting the details for proper plan execution nor a timeline that would allow for quality control and ensuing corrections prior to final product submission. In reviewing her final submission, Jessica’s leader identified several shortcomings; a lack of detail, sloppy workmanship, etc. creating a major “fail” on her first leadership assignment. Worse yet, when asked why these mistakes occurred, she informed that they were not her own… Let the blame-games begin! Instead of owning the mistakes that were made and providing course-corrective actions for next time, Jessica fell into the leadership challenge mistakes-trap and blamed her new team.
Trust – Breaking Trust and Rebuilding Trust
As you can imagine, Jessica’s team was none too happy to hear of her lack of ownership of the project mistakes that were made. Playing the blame-game rarely sits well with anyone, regardless of business or personal setting. In less than a week, the wonderful opportunity of leadership was damaged because trust had been broken (Both upwards for Jessica’s leader and downward to her direct team subordinates).
I often see leaders faced with the leadership challenge of mistakes. It’s typically not a matter of if they will make mistakes, but rather a matter of when mistakes will occur as a leader. Playing the blame-game breaks trust. Trust that need not be broken in the first place if the leader simply owns their mistake and provides a successful strategy for what they will do next time (There will be other leadership challenges which may cause future mistakes, but these will be other mistakes!) So, in breaking trust, how can you as a leader act towards rebuilding trust?
Educate – Leadership Learning
“If you think you’re the first person to go through this moment, you’re wrong!” was a saying my leader would typically share with me when I had my first team leader position. His message was twofold:
- I was not alone. Leaders had faced similar situations before.
- I should look to educate myself as to what those leaders who had been faced with similar situations did. The actions they took that lead to both successful outcomes, as well as those that lead to failure.
It was in diagnosing what previous leaders did that the team being led can prove most helpful. After all, you can secure new knowledge by researching the topic, reading up on it, etc. but perhaps the most helpful source comes from those that have actually gone through the failure moment by sampling asking them questions. Here are three of my favorites:
- What went right?
- What went wrong?
- What should we do next time this occurs?
Granted, team members will share their opinion when asked. In securing team member opinions, know that each person will likely have their own and as the leader you’ll have to screen them for quality content. But in asking you are building a relationship and sharing with the team that you value their opinion. You may have made mistakes as a leader, but if you’ve blamed others (or they sense that you’ve laid blame upon them) seeking individuals’ perspective will assist in rebuilding broken trust.
In this post we’ve explored the leadership challenge of mistakes. As I mentioned, in the leadership-landscape it’s not a matter of if mistakes will be made, but one of when mistakes are made. The single-most important aspect of mistakes therefore is to own them! It’s in owning mistakes that trust is elevated, and future mistake-avoidance can be pursued (The goal of perfection).
PS – 2020 will be here before we know it, and I see some disturbing Leadership-trends taking place. If you’d like to receive a white paper I wrote on “5 Ways Your Leadership Will Fail in 2020” CLICK HERE.
PPSS – As we hit the halfway point of 2019, I’m about to launch my most aggressive initiative to date. It’s a 501(c)(3) that provides Executive Education and Coaching to allow you to become the BEST leader possible (NOT Good, NOT Better… but BEST!). Set to launch in July 2019, I’m allowing 20 people in my network to “test-drive” the offering. If you’d like more information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.