What happens when one of your team fails?

July 09, 2017

What happens when one of your team fails?

If you are a manager of direct reports there will be times when one of your team will do something wrong, and let you down. You know it’s a case of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’, so you can try to be as prepared as possible for when the inevitable happens.

Let’s call the team member in question “the offender”. To lead the offender through the consequences of a mistake you should follow much the same advice as if you had made the mistake yourself - only this time you are advising someone else what to do.

  • Proceed with empathy. Everyone makes mistakes and has to be reprimanded at one time or another for them, so it’s important to have empathy for team members when they trip up (and they will).
  • Stay calm. You need to be the voice of reason and clarity in what may be a highly stress-charged situation.
  • Assess the situation. The first thing to do is to find out all the facts. It’s possible that you heard about the error through a third party, therefore you may or may not have all the correct information. The ideal is to go straight to the offender and ask some pertinent questions.
    • What happened?
    • Who is responsible?
    • Did you know about the situation before your client? If not, why not?
    • If your client is already aware of the situation, what has been their response?
    • Who is affected (internally and externally)?
    • What are the consequences (e.g. time, missed deadlines, money, reputation, client relationship)?
    • Was it avoidable?
    • Is it salvageable?
  • Plan a course. Once you have assessed the situation, you’ll need to plan out the best course of action. If other people (colleagues, clients or suppliers) have been affected by the incident, decide who is going to talk with them, offer an apology, and discuss a solution. In some instances that person may have to be you (if you need to take responsibility for the offender’s actions), otherwise the offender should get used to apologising themselves, and do what they can to put things right.
  • Look to the future. What will you need to do to ensure this situation doesn’t happen again? What are the learnings for everyone (not just the people directly involved)? If your whole team can learn by someone else’s mistake it will (hopefully) mean they won’t make the same mistake themselves in the future.

  

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