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Senior Correspondent

I called a person to confront an awkward leadership blunder.

Mistakes aren’t the issue; what you do with them is.

8 wrong approaches to mistakes that matter:

  1. Sloth approach: We’ll deal with this later.
  2. Weasel approach: Blame.
  3. Tiger approach: Attack.
  4. Lounging Cat approach: It’s not that bad, someone will deal with it.
  5. Squirrel on Steroids approach: Trying harder and harder without adapting.
  6. Possum approach: Let’s play dead. Maybe they’ll go away.
  7. Chicken approach: Brooding. Let’s sit on these eggs until something ugly hatches.
  8. Mad Monkey approach: Jumping around making loud noises and pointing fingers.

Tough conversations are tough, but necessary. 

Sooner is better than later with mistakes that matter.

Before confronting mistakes:

  1. Clarify. Get the facts. What really happened?
  2. Deal with emotion. Never confront while you’re mad, hurt, or pointing fingers.
  3. Plan the conversation. Write down main points. Confrontation almost never goes as planned but plan anyway.
  4. Determine desired behavioral results. What needs done?
  5. Establish emotional outcomes. How do you want people to feel when you’re done?

Attitude toward mistakes:

Pursue better.

“A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” James Joyce.

Seek better, rather than perfect. Arrival is a myth. “You don’t have to go all the way to bright, just make things better.” Doug Conant, author of TouchPoints.

Four words that changed everything:

I called to deal with a leadership mistake. The first thing out of their mouth was, “I made a mistake.” Boom! Everything shifts.

Futures emerge after mistakes are owned, not until. Mistakes anchor life in the past until you say, “I screwed up.”

You look strong when you own mistakes.

Tip: Own it; never excuse it.

Final step: We scheduled a face-to-face to reconnect as leaders and clarify future steps.

What wrong approach to mistakes do you most frequently see?

How do you confront mistakes others make? What about your own?

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