As a Leader, You Messed Up. Now What?

It’s never easy to own up to and face mistakes. The little ones, maybe they’re not so hard. But the BIG mistakes in your business or leadership can be quite frightening to face, let alone figure out how to resolve.

But mistakes are part of every leader’s journey. And they’re amazing teachers if you embrace them and use them to change and grow. That’s why our world is full of brilliant, creative people who’ve spoken great words of wisdom about messing up.

People like Albert Einstein, who said, “A person who made a mistake, never tried anything new.”

We all commit errors. Screw things up. Fail at times. But disciplined leaders make it a habit to recognize when they’ve made a mistake and do something about it. And when we say “do something about it,” we make take proactive, positive steps that reflect a mindset that sees mistakes as opportunities.

Whether you’ve made some big mistakes as of late or feel plagued by some pitfalls from your past, resist the temptation to lie in bed and simply stew about them at night or, worse, do nothing at all. Take action!

1.     Make “mistakes” a catalyst for change. It’s going to be hard but, after you’ve recovered from the initial shock, try to be grateful instead of disgruntled if find yourself confronted with a big fat mistake. Write down the lessons learned, using takeaways to inspire corrective action around transforming your leadership, team, organization or life for the better. Develop goals, strategies and action items to address those takeaways, making sure that anything you set out to do is backed by commitment and accountability. Without commitment and accountability, it’s hard to effect real change.

2.     Forgive yourself. You don’t need to ever forget about what happened. (Face it, that’s impossible unless you’ve suffered amnesia). But stop shackling yourself to the negative self-talk and self-sabotage that undermines your confidence and ability to change for the better. Accept your imperfections, knowing every day you are taking steps to improve.

3.     Avoid criticizing others. Leaders who are hard on themselves are almost always hard on others. And you know what? No one wants to work for a leader like that. So pay attention to your tendency to be critical of your team (and even your clients/customers). Get objective input from some trusted colleagues or through our 360-degree feedback around whether you are habitually hard on others, or unnecessarily hard on people at certain times. Develop some action steps to stop it, for example, instead of judging or making assumptions every time certain metrics or goals fall short, start asking more questions so you can better understand and problem-solve.

Here as Management Action Programs, leaders come to us because they realize they’re struggling with making mistakes, owning mistakes, and taking corrective action around their mistakes. If you can relate, reach out. We can help. Contact MAP today!


​ The Disciplined Leader

What do the best leaders have in common? The answer is one word: Discipline. A disciplined leader is one who identifies and focuses on the Vital Few: the 20% of activities that will drive 80% of the results. Learn More

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