Making or Managing: 5 Steps to Take When Mistakes are Made

HR Service Solution

“Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.”Bruce Lee

And that is where learning begins. Mistakes, they say, are precious lessons in life, be it in your personal life or professional. Whether you are a supervisor or an employee, mistakes are inevitable and we need to deal with them. Dealing with them means analyzing them to understand what went wrong, learning the lesson and then figuring out a way of fixing it now and doing it right next time.

In Leadership

You have a team working under your leadership and they are your direct responsibility, which means their mistakes are going to roll up the hierarchy and affect you. But that shouldn’t mean that your subordinates can never make mistakes and you show a zero tolerance for any errors they make. The reason is simple. If you don’t allow the team to move out of their comfort zone and explore other creative possibilities, you as a leader would stagnate within the stereotyped job role.

So it becomes necessary that you guide those under your care into making each mistake a learning experience. Understand, analyze, rectify and then you can avoid repeating the same mistake. Here are a few steps that would help you deal with mistakes and how to turn it positive:

Step 1: Listen

It is important that you don’t just look at the situation and arrive at a conclusion. Punishing the mistake is not your prime target. Your motive is to investigate the root cause, understand why and how it happened and formulate an approach so that it can be avoided next time. So ask a lot of questions and both you and your team can figure out what happened.

Step 2: Expectation

Now move towards elaborating on what your expectations were from them and what caused a deviation from the original expectations. Highlighting the error is a reflection process which will bring deeper awareness of the mistake made.

Step 3: Plan

Plans are made to help in guiding our actions. And therefore, as their leader, you will need to help the team and each team member chalk out a plan that will help the employee to avoid making the same mistake again.

Step 4: Follow Up

Let your employees know how much you trust and believe in them. Your act of support will not just boost their confidence but also motivate them towards working harder. Encourage them to give their best and you will be surprised with the results.

Step 5: Zoom Out

Mistakes, be it small or big, happen on a daily basis, but you need to keep an eye on the nature and pattern of mistakes. Try rethinking if certain policies or instruction needs to be revisited to avoid employees making such mistakes.

MistakesMake Your Own Learning Loop

Sometimes your frantic actions after committing the mistake actually ruin your credibility more than the mistake itself. And therefore it is necessary that you tackle the situation right and extract your learning opportunities from the mistake without losing a grip.

Here are steps that can guide you:

Step 1: Forgive & Forget

We are humans and it is obvious that we are prone to make mistakes at certain points in time, be it at personal or professional front. In most cases, we would feel sorry, guilty and probably embarrassed depending upon the nature of the mistake. But don’t let the emotion build and ruin it for you. And don’t beat yourself towards perfectionism – so forgive yourself and strive to excel the next time.

Step 2: Perspective

“Easier said than done.” This holds a crucial importance especially when you are upset. This is vital if you are keen at bouncing back. You have made an error, but you can always do some damage control and salvage the situation. So formulate an alternative plan and keep a positive perspective to fix the situation.

Step 3: Responsibility

Own up to the mistake you have made, and come up with next steps. Educate your leaders and fellow colleagues about the lesson you have learned. This rebuilds the lost sense of confidence and earns you respect from your boss and others around.

Step 4: No Blame Game

YES, it was not your fault alone, but NO you shouldn’t point fingers and turn it into a nasty blame game. However, you should also guard and not become someone else’s scapegoat. You focus on your mistake and come up with what your personal corrective plan.

Step 5: Apologize

Depending on the situation, a brief and to the point apology should work wonders. But don’t overdo it by shooting up excuses or shedding tears.


Where a great boss allows for mistakes to encourage growth and development, repeating the same mistakes over and over again shows that an employee is reluctant to learn from the mistakes. And this could hinder performance and growth. So a mindful apology, willingness to learn and abiding by strong corrective measures actually send out very positive vibes.