The Mistake Process
“Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.”
- Al Franken, "Oh, the Things I Know", 2002
Sometimes things just don’t go the way the team had hoped and the outcome of the project is less than perfect. While the inclination of the delegator may be to go ballistic and perhaps even lay blame publicly, that may not be the most productive approach. Take a look at the following suggestions directed both to the delegator and the delegatee.
Tips for the Delegator
- Think abut how the ideal supervisor would deal with the mistake(s) once brought to his or her attention.
- How would the ideal delegator deal with the mistake(s) once brought to his or her attention?
- Take a step back. Maybe you need to put yourself behind closed doors to calm down and rebalance. Take a deep breath.
- When discussing the issue, maintain a level tone. Do not make this personal. You are a team.
- Have the discussion in private.
- Explain that part of your job is to ensure that the best possible results are generated by your company or department and that your motive is not to “blaze” the team member.
- From the start of the conversation, convey that you are there to help with corrective measures (if the problem can be fixed).
- Work with the employee to pinpoint exactly what went wrong.
- Ask the delegatee to articulate lessons learned from the problem. “There are no mistakes, only learnings”.
- Express appreciation to the delegatee for his/her willingness to work on the issue.
Tips for the Delegatee
- If you are the staff member being held responsible for an error in a project delegated to you, what do you do when confronted by your supervisor?
- Do not interrupt your supervisor. Do not formulate defenses in your mind. Listen carefully with intent.
- If you made a mistake, admit it right away.
- If you need help in correcting the error, ask for support.
- Tell your supervisor what you will do in the future to prevent this occurrence. If you don’t know, explain that you will develop a process to review with him/her.
- If you do not believe you made a mistake, tell your supervisor that the mistake is not yours. (First, you may want to ask the question: “May I speak freely and openly with you?”) Explain and document the facts. Express your concern and offer your point of view. Ask if there is anything that you can do to help solve the problem.