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Monica Wofford, CSP, teaches leaders who were often managers, promoted, but not prepared, how to more effectively be themselves and lead themselves, before leading others.

Ever goofed? Sure you have, but what did you do after?

Does making a mistake make you difficult? Well, heck I hope not. I make them all the time. What can make you appear difficult is messing up and then covering up, so let’s look at how you can be a leader, make a mistake, recover, and make progress… not to mention save a little face.

With Make Difficult People Disappear coming out soon, it seems we’re awfully focused on this issue of difficult people lately, however, the more I think about it, it’s a rampant problem. There are some who seem to “see difficult people” instead of “dead people” from the movies, all over the place. This might even be the case in your office and if so, some of it may be derived from how you recover from your blunders. Here are a few ways to do it with grace and saving face.

Own it Immediately

There’s not much worse than making a mistake and everyone else knowing about it, but you. And once you know about it, if you act as if it never happened, everyone else still knows and then the rumors start. Just own the mistake. You’re human. You goofed. Big deal and in most cases, at least hopefully, the world will continue to spin. The faster you own it, the more respect you’ll gain for being just like everyone else… fallible and human.

Don’t Delegate Repair

Leaders, when you goof, it’s okay. What will stop the respect and rapport you’ve worked hard to build is delegating the fix of that error, particularly if you’re the reason things went awry to begin with. This isn’t a time to practice delegation. It’s a time to practice taking fast action, responsibility, prioritization, and communication; all key leadership traits. Don’t give your problem to someone else to fix.

Use it as a Teaching Moment

In professional speaking, there is a technique that makes use of self-deprecating humor. In leadership this might well be known as transparency, but the concept is the same. Use yourself, your own vulnerabilities, and your own foibles as teachable examples or moments. When you say something off the cuff without thinking and it causes hurt feelings for example, use that as an example of why you are urging a team member to think before she speaks. When you misjudge the length of time needed for a meeting, don’t gloss over it, make use of it when you’re guiding a colleague on the next agenda.

Much of what we’re addressing here is personal accountability and responsibility, though for some leaders who insist that they be perfect or know everything, this can be more difficult than it sounds. The most effective leaders, who recognize all that they say, do, think, believe and behave is contagious, also know that the human traits rub off on others the most. Your own vulnerabilities and admission of mistakes give those you lead the belief that they can live up to your expectations and maybe even one day fill your shoes. If you’re human, they’ll go easier on themselves when they make mistakes as well. Who knew a simple mistake could lead to more effective succession planning and to an elevated confidence among your team? It happens and it all begins with what you do the moment you realize you’ve blundered.

Have a difficult boss who doesn’t ever seem to make mistakes?
This may be a prime opportunity for you learn how to deal with that “difficult” person. For more information on our April conference of “How Do We Deal with Difficult People” click here.

Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

Stay Contagious!


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