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5 Steps Leaders Can Take to Turn Setbacks into Great Teachable Moments (and 3 Things to Never Do)

6 Jun 2018

By Marissa Levin

Every company experiences mistakes. These provide some of the best employee teachable moments.

The best-laid plans have a way of imploding. Or, sometimes employees and leaders take their eye off the ball. In any event, mistakes and screw-ups are guaranteed in any company.

Most mistakes aren’t fatal; they won’t result in a company closing its doors or defending itself in a lawsuit. While they may be costly and inconvenient, they also provide a fantastic opportunity to elevate leadership and to make the company stronger.

One of my clients recently received a less-than-stellar rating during an audit. Consequently, they had to reach out to many clients to inform them of the audit, and steps they would take to rectify the deficiencies.

My client asked for my guidance in navigating this challenge. Here’s what I shared.

  1. Allow yourself time to process the error and the implications. Receiving bad news triggers strong emotions. Employees take their cues from their leaders regarding the impact of bad news, and they watch to see how they will react. 
  2. Be in it with your people. Whatever has happened, remember that you are part of the company. You don’t just lead it. If an employee is responsible for a negative outcome, they are already worrying about their job security. This is the time to focus on understanding what has happened rather than on shaming someone or stripping away another person’s dignity.
  3. Put a plan of action in place to fix the problem. Enroll your team to fix the mistakes as quickly as possible. Hold them accountable with deadlines for corrective action. Check in regularly to ensure damage control is on schedule.
  4. Schedule a collaborative debrief. Remain focused on your desired outcomes: learning how to prevent this problem in the future, and maintaining a culture of trust and self-accountability.

    We break down debriefs into 3 segments:
    – How did we get here? What missteps occurred and what safeguards were missed?
    – Now that we are here, what must we do to get out of this situation? What is the detailed plan of action to fix the impact?
    – What do we do moving forward to avoid this position in the future? What process or organizational changes must we implement immediately?

    Establish rules for your debrief. Rules that we use include maintaining confidentiality, prohibiting personal attacks, recognizing every contributor’s input as valid, and staying focused on solutions rather than blame.

  5. Recap the lessons learned and share. Once the debrief concludes, recap your lessons learned and share with your entire team.

So often, our over-reactions to problems or disagreements become more problematic than the actual problem because we react emotionally. Especially in times of difficulty, it’s crucial to maintain our composure.

What Not to Do When The Sky is Falling

The most emotionally grounded leaders avoid these reactions in times of trouble:

  1. They minimize or hide the problem. It’s painful and time-consuming to deal with adversity, especially when it may require us to stop, re-calibrate, and inform others of what’s happening. To move through a problem as quickly as possible, leaders should inform everyone with appropriate and relevant information.
  2. They go straight into the blame game. Rarely does a single person own a problem. Before placing anyone on the chopping block, leaders should check their emotions at the door and do their research to learn how the company arrived at its current state.
  3. They delegate and disappear. Strong leaders don’t abandon their team when there is an issue. They are in it with them until resolution so everyone feels supported.

Run a company long enough, and you will hit some disruptive snags. With experience, we learn to move through them with minimal disruption.

Our greatest personal and organizational growth occurs in our most difficult moments. Our greatest breakthroughs occur following our greatest breakdowns. Mistakes are inevitable, but learning is always possible when we embrace them as teachable moments.


Read the full article here.
This content was originally published by Inc Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Inc Magazine

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