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Admin Pro Forum

How do you coach people out of making simple mistakes?

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Question: "Frankly, our admin team makes a lot of mistakes. We deal with a lot of paperwork and we create typos, overlook incorrect addresses, forget to format things correctly, mislabel files, etc. It's all well and good to tell people to 'be more careful,' but there's got to be a better way to put people into a mindset that cuts down on simple errors. Who's got a solution?”  — Pru, Executive Finance Assistant

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Douglas September 13, 2018 at 12:43 pm

Administrative work simply requires a focus on details and great organizational skills. In my experience, if admins have too much on their plates, no matter how good they are, mistakes will be made – even ones that seem obvious and easily avoided. If admins work too fast because they are rushed, mistakes will happen. Slowing down, creating a work environment that minimizes distractions, not checking social media feeds, etc. should help admins stay focused. In any case, admins should regularly spot check or proof work to make sure there are no mistakes. If complicated work is being done, it’s a good idea to have someone else proof it, as it is difficult to catch your own mistakes with something you have spent a lot of time creating and revising. And if these tips don’t help, I’d say it’s time for new admins!

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Lisa September 8, 2018 at 9:27 am

It’s time to get new admins. People are hired to do their jobs correctly. That’s their job. The fear of being fired should make a person not make mistakes.

As for celebrating for not making mistakes, admins are not in first grade anymore where they get a A+ sticker for printing out a label correctly. Annual reviews are the time to recognize achievements and doing work outside the regular tasks, not for just doing your job.

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Jackqueline September 9, 2018 at 8:24 pm

I agree to the first part of your comment, this age of every child gets a prize is not doing anyone any favours.

How the point about Annual reviews, this isn’t the time for taking about your past mistakes, the time for talking about the mistakes you are making is when you have made them, we have regular 1 on 1s with our Manager to catch up and to take about our wins and what we are having issues with.

Annual Reviews are about reviewing your position description, and is it matching what your are doing. Further movement opportunities and how to achieve them i.e. further study.

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Carol September 7, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Our eyes and brain tend to see what we want them to see so you need to learn to proof everything before it goes out to its final destination. I work in a government office where we create election ballots and permanent records and documents. We have learned to have at least to two other sets of eyes look at our work before we consider it acceptable to print or mail. By having other eyes look at it, we have to send the rough draft, contact information (addresses, phone numbers, e-mails), and other information, with it so they have references. The errors are noted and sent back to the creator of the documents so they are aware of the mistakes they made.
Some of the best tips I have learned along the way: set your project aside for at least 15 minutes (longer if you can afford the time) and come back with “fresh eyes”, then proof the document backward using a colored background on your document screen OR printing it on colored paper – and for some reason pink works best. The one thing to remember, if you typed it, it needs to be proofed – headers, footers, addresses, and anything else beyond the actual body of information you want to convey.

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KS September 7, 2018 at 11:31 am

Meet as a group to discuss the consequences of these errors, for example, more work to correct, the company’s or department’s loss of credibility, etc. Then brainstorm on possible solutions. When everyone has input, they are more likely to follow through with suggestions.

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Dona Carlisle September 7, 2018 at 7:20 am

The best way I have found to help cut down/eliminate mistakes is to celebrate the victories; i.e. a day without mistakes, a week without mistakes, a month, etc. However, to get there sometimes you have to create a “check” process for a certain time period. Create goals for individuals to cut their mistakes by a certain percent and pair up people so that there is someone checking their work before it is released. Two eyes are better than one and it helps the creator to learn to proof better too!

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April September 6, 2018 at 7:01 pm

Because our admin team works on such a variety of documents, and uses many different skills depending on the task, I have created step-by-step checklist of all the elements that need to be reviewed, including common errors. We also have a glossary of company standards for word spellings and hyphenation on industry terminology that might not be in everyone’s vocabulary. While this doesn’t mean we will catch 100% of the mistakes, it does give us a better chance at finding them. In our company, our admin team’s clients are internal staff, and it is our job to make them look good to their clients. We take pride in doing that successfully, and we help each other out when the workload is causing pressure that allows mistakes to slip through the cracks.

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Jackqueline September 6, 2018 at 9:23 pm

agree, we have a style guide for my workplace, covers official colours, type font, layouts, standard templates for letters, memos, fax etc.

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Denise Erwin September 6, 2018 at 4:29 pm

I agree with the comments above. I always want feedback if I have made mistake. I want those around me to hold me accountable. If the action is continually overlooked and feedback is never given, you cannot hold a person accountable to something they are oblivious to. Also, I think we sometimes hit autopilot which can be a little dangerous because we think we cannot make mistakes. Your admin team should have clear expectations mapped out and leaders should follow through with feedback and accountability.

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June Cram September 6, 2018 at 4:29 pm

This is a difficult challenge. How you coach someone to stop making simple mistakes depends on their personality. Some people are more or less detail oriented. Some are more or less organized. If a person struggles with the details, it is often helpful to have someone more detail oriented over-check the work. But this takes up more time and if an office is short handed and over burdened, this adds more burden. Hiring the right person(ality) for the job in the first place goes a long way to solving the problem.

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Donna September 6, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Work really like a team; a team is made up of people with complementary skills who have common goals and diverse members. When these members apply different skills they come up with a more effective solution than one person working on the same problem. Be supportive of one another and increases collaboration and brainstorming. Two or more people are always better. Check the work together before it gets out the door.

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Melissa September 6, 2018 at 4:15 pm

I have some suggestions. First, make a list of the most common mistakes and develop the habit of checking for them before a document is finished. Second is to develop processes for common activities, that can also help alleviate common errors. Third would be to have someone check the work before it is submitted, maybe create teams of two to check each other’s work – you could also make someone the final proof reader and have them go over any mistakes with the team. You could also hold quick daily or weekly meetings to review the most common errors of the week and how to prevent them going forward. That also provides a good check for anyone who may be feeling overwhelmed, can help to distribute the work better among the team.

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Elizabeth Fulton September 6, 2018 at 4:12 pm

My initial response is to ask what kind of pressure is the admin staff under to get tasks done? It sounds like the admin staff is rushing, because that’s how not only simple errors happen, but also how they are missed. If there is more than one person on the admin team, I would suggest creating a partnering system. So when one person is done working on a document, email, whatever the task maybe, they ask their admin partner to take a look at what they’ve been working on. Sometimes it takes another pair of eyes to catch those simple errors. Be each others accountability partner.

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Marjorie Conner September 6, 2018 at 4:08 pm

Many times, if a person has to correct their own mistakes, the mistakes become fewer and fewer. Of course not always the case but we’ve used this method in the past.

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