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Your team is watching: how to recover from mistakes in leadership

Your team is watching: how to recover from mistakes in leadership

Creating a safe environment to be vulnerable and admit when things go wrong is the first step to recovery

In business, our success ultimately comes down to how well our team collaborates and performs. As a leader, it’s up to you to give direction to your team, instil a focus and draw out passions. Many franchisees invest in a brand because they feel an affinity with the culture, recognise the business model is sound and consider some of their existing skills to be transferable, making it a successful proposition. Even if they have experience leading teams before, there are times when mistakes are made. So, what are the common mistakes in leadership and how can you recover after making them?

Let us first consider what mistakes are most commonly made by leaders. They are often a lack of communication, trust or alignment to goals and direction. These three areas seem simple enough to get right but once you are in a pressurised workplace with deadlines and many different personality types to consider, problems can arise.

1. Lack of communication

Speed is the name of the game when you realise you have miscommunicated something or not communicated it at all. As a leader, you need the awareness and emotional intelligence to recognise when your communication has not been received as you intended. You need to recover from the situation as quickly as possible and understand what went wrong so you don’t repeat the mistake. Think about how you can develop yourself as a leader to assess your team’s preferred communication styles – they are very unlikely to all be the same.

How do you know the right way of communicating with each of your team? There are popular surveys you can get them to complete to understand their preferred communication style. You can also ask your team what they want to get out of a conversation with you. Are they looking for advice, evaluation, or appreciation for the role they play in the team and the business? This matters when it comes to communicating feedback. They may be looking for ways to improve (advice), they may want an assessment of their performance (evaluation), or they may just want to feel thanked for the job they do (appreciation). If someone is expecting appreciation but gets advice from you, it can lead to a breakdown in the relationship. If you make this mistake as a leader, it is easy to recover by simply starting any feedback discussion with a setting of expectations.

2. Create trust

Creating trust between you as the leader and your team is critical in overcoming mistakes. A problem with trust can easily stem from poor communication. Likewise, a problem with communication can exacerbate trust issues. If you are trusted but make a mistake as a leader, your team see it as a genuine mist-step and are willing to forgive and move on. But what happens if your team has lost trust in you? Where do you go from there?

The good news is that if you put the action into repairing trust, you can build it back even stronger than ever. The job of the leader is to communicate for the benefit of your team – it is about them, not you. If you need to apologise, it’s important to communicate genuinely with warmth and to wear your heart on your sleeve. So, when things go wrong as a leader, look them in the eye, show that you care and make it up by communicating in the right way going forwards.

You must also show your team that you trust them. Consider the difference between managing people – and in some cases micro-managing people – and leading people. Give your team responsibility for their own roles, trust them to take on as much as they can and support them to expand their abilities further. When your team feel trusted and trust in you, they will come to you if they need more help or direction.

3. Alignment of goals and direction

The leader’s job is to give direction - where are we going? The leader is steering the ship – they are not doing all the work. There is a crew on the ship – a set of specialists who get the ship and its cargo safely from one port to another. The leader tells them all the destination, and that is part of direction, it is part of goal setting, it is part of the future. What happens if your team doesn’t feel inspired to drive the business into the future? You have missed a huge opportunity as the leader.

The future is a big source of inspiration for teams and the great news is you can make it as positive as you want it to be. If there has been a lack of planning, direction or alignment so far, now is the time to take control. The first step in taking control is to develop yourself as a leader. Create a professional development plan for yourself. Work out what kind of leader you want to be, by describing yourself in five words. If you’re not sure what type of leader you want to be, read or listen to some books on leadership and look at some leaders who inspire you. What defines them as inspirational? State your intentions as a leader and commit to becoming the strong leader you wish to be.

Now you’re in a position to lead on a common goal – one that everyone in the organisation knows about that helps them understand where they are going and where the business is going. The important thing here is that you involve your team in creating this goal initially and for those who join the team afterwards, you involve them in formulating their involvement in reaching that goal through their own commitment – allow them to get their hearts into it.

Finally, if you as a leader support risk-taking for your team to reach this common goal, you release them from the fear of making their own mistakes. This is a huge part of business leadership and growth. Engaging the team in 90-day planning will help them identify areas where they can take calculated risks, giving them the confidence to reach outside of their comfort zones and freedom to challenge the status quo.

When a team see a leader allowing them to test and refine ideas in a safe environment, they are more inclined to respond favourably when the leader is vulnerable and admits to having made a mistake.

Famous quotes about mistakes

  • “Insanity is making the same mistakes and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein
  • “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts” - Nikki Giovanni, American poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator
  • “Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow” - Mary Tyler Moore, American activist, producer and social advocate
  • “If you’re not making some notable mistakes along the way, you’re certainly not taking enough business and career chances” - Sallie Krawcheck, entrepreneur and one of the most powerful women on Wall Street
  • “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake” – Confucius

The author

Julie Wagstaff is the co-founder of ActionCOACH UK, the world’s number #1 business coaching franchise.

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