Now what. Our dinosaur brain clicks in, and we (usually) angrily respond that the person who made the mistake is a dummy, incompetent, and we tell them that with no real way to help them or improve in the future. We vent our anger, which may allow us to feel better momentarily, but it does nothing for our staff members.
I’m not saying that we ALL do that, but if you identify with the above, then please read on. And even if you do not, read on for some tips on how to make the mistake to increase your staff’s productivity.
First: realize that your staff’s “last mistake” is their best teacher. What can you teach the person who made the mistake to avoid these in the future? That’s on you.
Second: Put the mistake in perspective. Is it a crisis, a life-or-death situation? Is it as bad as you think? When you talk with your team member, tell him how consequential. or inconsequential it is. This will set the groundwork for further discussion.
Third: How will they fix it? What’s the plan? Ask your team members what they plan to do to correct the mistake. Help them resolve the mistake by asking questions, offering input, and being more supportive than directive.
Fourth: Look at communication. Many mistakes stem from a lack of communication. Did you give clear instructions? More importantly, did you ask your staff member to repeat what you just told him for clarification? Perhaps you need to check on the task status as the deadline for completion approaches. Lots of mistakes happen because of communication. Remember communication, by definition, is what the recipient hears. Not what you said!
Fifth: Emphasize learning: There’s a saying that “Mistakes are the seeds from which trees of knowledge grow.” I believe that wholeheartedly. Much wisdom comes from trying, failing, and making mistakes again. Make sure to draw out the lessons from a mistake and help others on the team learn from the mistake as well (again, without blaming).
Sixth: Make it OK to make mistakes. Perfectionism is a curse. If your staff believes they can never make a mistake or they will get their butt chewed out, they will operate slowly, be risk averse, shut down any creative urges they may have, and not trust you to be understanding. Thus, you will not get the best out of them, which would be detrimental to growth.
Mistakes happen. It’s what you do after the mistake that makes the difference between a learning moment or a recipe for a horrendous work environment.
Remember, If No One Is Making Mistakes, It Usually Means No One Is Doing ANYTHING!