Your largest client just called you asking where their shipment is and you don’t have an answer.  With a little research, you can’t find any record that the shipment ever went out. Just yesterday you confirmed with your employee, Jonas, that the shipment went out. When you approach Jonas, he looked through his records and finally hung his head and said, “I must not have put it in.” While this scenario may not be exactly what we have experienced in the past, the concept and sinking feeling produced by a major mistake in our stomachs is the same.

Last week we talked about how you can approach a mistake that you made; what if it wasn’t you who made a mistake, but rather a coworker or an employee like Jonas? Much of the same advice in the prior week’s blog (BREATHE! – Mistakes under Pressure) can be applied depending on your role with the offender.

When affected by another individual’s mistake, the first thing you should do is focus on a solution rather than laying blame.  Identifying what went wrong can be handled at a different date. How can you help resolve the situation? Can you take the lead and smooth over the client, fix the data, etc.? Even if it isn’t your mistake, remember the big picture and find a way to help resolve the situation.

If your role is the manager of the employee, evaluate the employee’s history of mistakes and the employee’s responses to the mistakes. If the employee keeps making the same mistakes, it is time to move (if you haven’t already) into coaching and discipline. Keep in mind that if you allow your employee to keep repeating mistakes, it is just as much your fault as theirs. Evaluate the employee’s ability to take responsibility. Lack of personal responsibility is a red flag for any manager. Such behavior needs to move to coaching and possible changes to their position. If this is their first mistake, coach them through the situation and how to resolve the issue as best as possible.

Even if you don’t have responsibility over the individual who made the mistake, but you are still affected by it, you can assist and coach. This is your time to shine as a leader and lead by example. Recognize that you have likely made significant mistakes in your own professional life and that the biggest lesson is that we need to learn from our own mistakes. Approach the individual with compassion and forgiveness. This doesn’t mean forget the mistakes, but you can assist them and help them learn from their mistakes. Don’t ever take your problem solving and learning hat off when approaching mistakes.

Remember in all things, treat others with Respect and Dignity.