How do you view a mistake? Do you consider it a failure or a learning experience? Do feel a sense of disrespect or an opportunity to strengthen team spirit? Do you feel like disciplining or coaching? It is important how you feel because how you feel determines your response. The outcome of your response will be a person who wants to do well or one who wants to avoid doing badly.

What the heck? Isn't it the same thing? No, and it's a world of difference!

The person who wants to do well would be filled with competence and confidence. He would be self -driven, acquiring  new skills to meet bigger and better challenges. He would want to contribute to your success.

The other person , the one who wants to avoid doing badly would be staggering through with uncertainties and self-doubts. He would just want to meet the current goals and expectations. He would learn to be defensive instead of being open to learning.

Use your corrective action to build a base for stronger performance, not to destroy the spirit for accountability. One set of actions could secure long term gains, despite the inevitable immediate loss, from the learning experience. 

It is hard to imagine that there are people who make mistakes so that they can enjoy being ravaged. There might be outliers, but as people, we are wired to seek recognition, appreciation, love and care. A famous saying, attributed to Albert Einstein is succinct of this, " if you do the same thing in the same way over and over again, and expect a different result, you must be insane." I would have a serious concern about his mental health if the person makes the same mistake, over and over again, or look at the job fit and skill issues. Of course, people can make mistakes under stress or duress. Tight deadlines, bandwidth issues etc etc. Whatever the reasons, if you want to build your team after a mistake is made and not to destroy it, these are five key steps:

1.) Everybody knows this; "praise in public, reprimand in private." Everybody knows that you are the boss, you don't have to raise your voice or spew your emotion all over everybody. In fact, more than anything other situation, you have to be coherent so that the other person could learn from you. Also, doing the correcting in public puts you at risk of being challenged openly. If you had make a mistake about the mistake...

2) Always come from the direction that you are present as part of the owners of the issue. Use 'we.' Talk as if you are talking to a peer not to a person six rungs down. Soften the approach and show active listening. Preserve the confidence. Ask for suggestions. If you offer a solution, ask, "what do you think?"

3) Balance.It's often quoted that psychologist John Gottman recommends that for every negative thing you say, you'll have to balance with five positives, to ensure you have great family relationship.
Same deal here. Set the stage by saying something kind and create opportunities to compliment.

4) Keep the business end of things. Being kind and being nice do not mean that we shy away from calling the mistake a mistake. However, it is important that we criticize the act and not the person. It is only right that the person feels guilty of  making the mistake. It is critical that you do not shame the person. Guilty and shame are different emotions. A person who feels guilty will right the wrong. A person who feels ashamed will withdraw from any connection. Guilty is about the act. Shame is about the person.

5) Mutual commitment. Commit to help and get the commitment to act on the agreed corrective action plan. Summarize the learning. If applicable, extract what can be shared with your organization and others as a preventive strategy. Commit on the next steps. Make sure the meeting is minuted and the action plan is self tracked. Set review and closure dates. Don't hang a person more than one time. Do not mention the mistake after closure.

This corrective action process will build your team's confidence in you and in themselves. It is a safeguard against the destruction of  team spirit and your organizations capabilities. Do you have a tried and true process you would like to share?


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