Or do people fear you and choose to rather hide issues from you? For the majority of people admitting that they have made a mistake or asking for help is not a pleasant experience.
How do you reward people for trusting you enough to come to you for help? Being able to communicate openly is a key characteristic of high performing teams. Is your behaviour holding your team back?
Mistakes will be made and issues will arise – this is the nature of life, but fortunately we can learn how to deal with these events in a more value adding way:
1. Lead by example
Set the example of how to appropriately and effectively deal with issues that arise and mistakes that are made. A very important part of this is to apologize when you have made a mistake. Apologizing is not an admission of weakness, but an admission that you are human and it shows your team that making a mistake is not the end of the world.
2. Spot the opportunity
See every mistake as an opportunity to learn and to prevent something even worse from happening in future.
3. Talk with facts only
People tend to exaggerate when faced with issues. Descriptive words like “never” and “nothing” always seem to effortlessly roll of the tongue. Teach your team to speak with facts instead. With accurate data, better decisions can be made faster.
4. Lead people to become their own problem solvers
When someone does come to you with a problem, resist the temptation to take control of the situation and ownership of the problem on their behalf. Although there are some exceptions to this, it is important to make sure that it doesn’t become your standard response to every problem that is brought to your attention. Instead ask questions, listen and try to guide the individual to work the problem out by themself. Solving your own problem is an empowering experience.
5. Focus on the end goal
People easily get caught up in the blame game and sometimes lose sight of the real goal. If the package did not get onto the right flight, the priority should not be to figure out who is at fault, but to get the right package delivered to the client without delay or inconvenience to them. Keeping the client happy should be the first priority and it should be everyone’s priority. If in an emergency the IT guy is required to go drop off another package at the airport, there should be no argument first that this is not his responsibility or job.
6. Correct and prevent
Many businesses make the mistake of stopping after corrective action has taken place. This is a bigger mistake than the original mistake that required corrective action in the first place. You have to make sure to follow through with preventative action as well to make sure that this never happens again.
As far as is possible standardize your processes. Make it easy and clear for anyone to know what needs to happen. If the red light on the machine goes on what must you do? Will a stranger to that area, walking past, be able to identify that this is a problem and what they must do about it? A picture with a simple instruction might be more effective and practical than a copy of the machine manual. If someone needs to be called, put their phone number or extension number on the instruction as well.
8. Address the behaviour and not the person
Let people be defined not by the mistakes that they have made, but by their behaviour when dealing with those mistakes. Make people really feel that it is “us against the problem” and “not us against each other”.
Create an environment in which you and your team can safely try things, even if they do not work out perfectly in the end. Differentiate between realizing unexpected results and intentionally causing damage. Some of the most amazing discoveries in the world came as a result of continuous trial and error.
Su-Mari Du Bruyn is co-founder of the company Adapt To Change.