How Leaders Should Handle Mistakes


As leaders we will have to deal with our people making mistakes along with the mistakes that we make as well.  There will be problems, failures, setbacks and stupid decisions. That is inevitable. So how do you deal with it?

I would suggest that as we deal with mistakes, leaders should be more curious than critical.

Curiosity causes you to ask questions.

Criticism causes you to reprimand.

Curiosity seeks understanding

Criticism seeks blame

Curiosity builds trust and rapport

Criticism builds resentment and defensiveness

Curiosity focuses on the person

Criticism focuses on the problem

Curiosity creates partnerships

Criticism creates divisions

Curiosity leads to solutions

Criticism leads to making others feel small and less confident

Leaders who are curious are solution thinkers. They recognize mistakes and then seek to understand them, learn from them and create a better future for everyone involved.

A mistake is just that – making a wrong judgment about something.  Haven’t we all done that?  A mistake is not done with intention.  Success is not accomplished by making others feel less of or to blame.  In most cases people already feel bad enough.  Can we as leaders extend an understanding and explore solutions together with our people?

In partnership everyone wins – when you get there.  Collectively working toward a solution gives ownership to the outcome.  Mistakes require several things – understanding, correction and solutions.

So the next time a mistake comes your way, either you’re own or someone else’s; will you be curious or critical?




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