How to Address a Mistake You’ve Made As a Leader

Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike
How to Address a Mistake You’ve Made As a Leader
"Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Although former U.S. President FDR made the above remark on the topic of general communication, his guidance rings especially true when you’ve made a mistake as a leader and need to apologize.

We all make mistakes. Here’s how not to make it worse once the mistake has been realized:

  1. Acknowledge the mistake: Take responsibility for making a mistake, admit it, and express remorse for any consequences you may have caused.
  2. Explain what happened: Be honest and straightforward with your explanation. Doing so will demonstrate your accountability and help your team understand the situation more clearly.
  3. Take corrective action: Develop a plan to correct the mistake and explain how it will prevent it from happening again.
  4. Follow up: Show the team that you are committed to the corrective action and are pro-actively addressing the mistake.

Here’s an example of what it should sound like:

I’m sorry for the mistake I made. And I’m sorry for the extra work it caused you over the weekend. It happened because I failed to properly consider planning timelines. I plan to re-evaluate my method of accounting for contingencies so it doesn’t happen again. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do. I’m open and excited to hear any suggestions if you have them on how I can get better.

That’s it.

Importantly: when you give the apology, there are only two acceptable phrases to use, “I’m sorry,” or “I apologize.” Never use sentence structures like, “I’m sorry, but…” or “If I offended you, I apologize…” Neither of these conditional apologies will give your team great confidence in your sincerity.

Your actions after the apology will tell your team all they need to know.

It’s now up to you to live up to your potential as a leader and make the necessary changes to get the job done. Learn more about the Leadership Theory here.

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Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike