Leading On Management: How To Recover From A Leadership Blunder

No one is perfect. There are certainly people who think they are perfect, but the reality is no one is truly perfect. We all make mistakes and have our flaws. So much of employee relations is recovering when employees make mistakes. Leaders try to fix their performance, behavior or lack of skill set. They focus on errors in processing or procedures. Essentially, leaders spend a ton of time fixing everyone else’s blunders.LEADERBLUNDER

But they aren’t immune themselves.

Imperfect leaders can and will make mistakes. They can make huge errors in judgment that turn into downright blunders. Because they are in a leadership position, the spotlight shines a little brighter which can turn what could have been a minor error into a huge, overblown mistake.

Depending on the severity of the blunder the result could be that employees lose trust, become disheartened or begin to wonder if this is really a place they want to work. If the leader has committed a mistake that employees have committed in the past, employees will be very anxious to see how the leader is dealt with.

The ramifications from a leader’s mistake could be significant. If a leader tries to sweep the mistake under the rug or worse, blames others, what could have been dealt with swiftly and low key, now turns into a high profile event where everyone is up in arms.

Ninety-nine percent of the stuff that hits the fan should have been batted down before it got that high. Leadership mistakes that have boiled over often fall into this category.

So how can leaders recover quickly from a blunder? I’m fairly certain that the answers won’t surprise you, but simply serve as reminders. Our natural reaction when the mistake is our own is to minimize and move on as quickly as possible which can lead us to handle it incorrectly. Focusing on the few things below should help us do what’s right while still recovering quickly.

Own It

Man this one is hard, but it half the battle when moving on. I believe that we as a human race are much more willing to think about forgiveness when the other person just fesses up. Skating around the issue, blaming others or making excuses just confounds the problem. Publicly say, “I did it” and move on to the next step.

Accept the Consequences

This can get a little tricky. Earlier I mentioned an employee who may have committed the same mistake and is now looking to see how the leader will be handled. Punishment for mistakes has to be consistent or you face legal scrutiny. Leaders have to be willing to face the same consequences they shell out to their employees. They are not above the law just because of their title. Additionally, because of their position, the mistake could actually cost the company more than the same mistake made by a lower ranking employee. The punishment must be consistent and the leader has to accept them.

Additional consequences could also include lack of trust moving forward or other employee moral issues. Leaders have to understand these consequences as well and be ready to deal with them.

Fix It While Moving On

Dwelling on a mistake simply makes it larger than it has to be. It is imperative that leaders fix the issue and continue to work on it while still moving forward. Allowing employees or themselves to dwell just means the mistake will never go away. This certainly isn’t to imply we should ignore, but after owning it, dealing with the consequences and fixing it, we should all be able to move on.

Leadership mistakes are going to happen. They are going to happen on both small and large levels. Overcoming our natural tendency to minimize and actually deal with them and allow ourselves to be human will help employees maintain trust and appreciate that they work for a place that allows for mistakes and then moves on. Everyone needs grace when making mistakes and leaders are no different.

What would you add to the list to help leaders recover from leadership blunders?

Sabrina Baker
Sabrina Baker, PHR is the founder and CEO of Acacia HR Solutions, a human resource outsourcing, consulting and recruiting firm located outside of Chicago, IL. Sabrina was a human resource leader for eleven years before starting her own business in 2011. She serves on the Illinois Society of Human Resources Council board and holds the position of Annual Conference Chair. She is also a member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) press team and is a regular contributor to their We Know Next blog. After experiencing her own layoff in 2010, Sabrina became very passionate about helping job seekers find work. Through her business and volunteer efforts she makes helping people find jobs a priority. Sabrina was named one of the Top 100 HR Influencers to follow on Twitter via the Huffington Post in 2013 and one of the Faces of Recruiting and Staffing by HR Marketer in 2014.
Sabrina Baker
Sabrina Baker

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