Handling Mistakes2013-08-28T16:31:26-04:00

By: Roger Fulton
June 2001
Reprint Protection News

It starts out innocently, "Boss, you got a minute?" Whether you do or not, your subordinate proceeds to tell you about the mistake he made, thereby dropping the whole thing right into your lap. Now what?

Mistakes are a fact of life. Your subordinates will make them, and occasionally you will make them as well. Since they cannot always be avoided, the success of your career may depend on your ability to handle mistakes whenever they occur.

Here are a few hints to help you handle those mistakes, and the problems they can create:

Evaluate it!

Acknowledge that a mistake has occurred, keeping in mind that all mistakes can be handled. Stay calm, and realistically evaluate how much damage has been done. When you think it through logically, chances are that there is less damage than it originally appeared.

Be up front

Accept responsibility for the mistake and advise your supervisor of the situation. You may also need to advise anyone else who will be directly affected by it as well. However, that's about it! There is no sense in broadcasting a mistake to the entire organization if it's not necessary.

Handle it

Formulate, then act on, a plan of action to correct the mistake, and to minimize the effect of it. Take the steps necessary to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Keep your supervisor informed of your progress as you logically work your way through the entire situation.

Document your actions

Record all of the details of the incident. How it occurred, when and how you learned of it, who you notified, and what actions you took. This documentation will be of great value if you have to answer questions at a later date. It will also tend to protect you, your subordinates, and the organization by documenting the events at the time that they occur.

Learn and grow

Experience is a great teacher. The problems and mistakes that you handle will increase your levels of knowledge, maturity and confidence. At the same time, your ability to effectively handle the situation will be watched by subordinates, and they will learn from your example.

When you handle problems and mistakes calmly, logically, and professionally, you will gain the respect of your subordinates, and your superiors. This respect, coupled with the knowledge and experience you gained, should make you a prime candidate when it comes to future promotions.

Roger Fulton is the author of several successful books including, Common Sense Supervision, Common Sense Leadership, and The Practical Police Manager. His work also routinely appears in several national and international security and law enforcement publications. In addition to his education and training, he has years of practical supervisory experience, including retiring as a captain with the New York State Police. You can contact him through his firm, Knight Management Corporation, P.O. Box 416, Hayes, Virginia 23072, or call him at (804) 642-2343. He can also be contacted on the Internet through his webpage at: www.RogerFulton.com where you will find more leadership tips and information on how to get yourself promoted, and how to be an effective leader.