Everybody makes mistakes. But not everybody knows what to do next.
As a supervisor, you can increase your own effectiveness—and gain the respect of your employees, colleagues and clients—by knowing how to act when you realize you made an error.
Here’s what to do:
1. Take responsibility. Avoid wasting time thinking how it might not really be your fault. And limit your regrets; what’s done is done. The key is to take positive action—now.
2. Make two plans. Figure out what you’re to do to improve the situation. Then figure out what you’ll do if that doesn’t work. Having at least two plans will give you the confidence to withstand the heat you may feel as a result of your error.
3. Explain what happened. Meet with whoever is affected by the mistake. Start by describing the unacceptable result. Then briefly explain why it occurred. Answer questions directly. It’s OK to describe how you feel about the situation, but avoid bogging down in self-criticism and excessive apologies.
4. Offer your alternative. Describe your remedies. Explain the positive outcomes they offer. Listen to responses carefully, paraphrasing either mentally or aloud to counter the numbing effect of whatever defensiveness you may feel. Agree on an arrangement that will satisfy as many of the other persons’ needs and wants as possible. Be willing to make a considerable effort.
5. Move on. Incorporate the lessons offered by the mistake. Carry out the corrective plans you’ve made. Then look forward to your chance to do a better job next time.