So, you screwed up. Royally.
You might have let down a team member, missed a major deadline, dropped an important meeting, or lost a critical sale. You feel helpless, hopeless and confused. You just don’t know what to do, though your mind is giving you a lot of conflicting guidance.
The panicked side of you wants to overreact. It’s telling you to express your emotions and get angry with the next person you encounter.
The irrational side of you wants to blame. It’s not your fault for all these mistakes; if only your team member was clearer with their expectations, or the deadline you missed wasn’t the “real” deadline. It was an artificial deadline and your missing it wasn’t going to delay the project. Regardless of what happened, someone else is to blame and should be held accountable.
The scared side of you wants to hide. If you go home, call in sick for a few days, somehow the problem will just blow over and all of this will go away.
But what does the leader inside you want to do? It’s perhaps the quietest voice in your mind, but it’s the one that you need to listen to in order to redeem yourself from the mistake you’ve made.
During the times when we need to step up and be accountable, it’s hard to demonstrate a leadership response because in moments like these, we have to combat some very loud, powerful, instinctual forces that are trying to protect us – and our ego – from getting into trouble.
What does the leadership response require? It means being better than our instincts.
3 Tips to Lead to Resolution
Here are several ways to tune down the noise and turn up your response to ensure that the next time you screw up, you’re prepared to lead your way to the best resolution:
1. Own your mistake and apologize for it immediately.
Don’t look for excuses to comfort you or let you offer the hook. They’re not going to put you in good favor, either, with the person you may have offended. Excuses only satisfy the person who is delivering them.
2. Look at the problem critically and accept responsibility for where you fell short.
Identify what you should have done differently to avoid or prevent the problem. Maybe you’re disorganized, which made you miss the meeting, or maybe you’ve taken on too much responsibility, which has contributed to your poor account management. Only when you know your role in a problem can you understand what you can do to ensure you don’t make the same mistake twice.
3. Work to regain the credibility of those you let down.
Credibility takes time to develop, so it’s best to start right away. Your credibility with others is dependent upon how much they trust you. You can develop trust by going above and beyond in the future to meet the expectations of others.
In the end, do not let your mistakes define you – after all, we’re human and everyone makes them. But if you can apply an appropriate leadership response to your circumstance, you’ll be well on your way towards professional redemption.
About the Author
Angie Morgan is a former Marine Corps captain and co-founder of Lead Star, a nationally-recognized leadership development consulting firm. Morgan is also the co-author of Leading from the Front: No-Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women (McGraw-Hill), which became a business bestseller.