We all make mistakes when leading. It’s part of the process—delayed projects, missed deadlines, communication issues, budget constraints, and an endless list of other possibilities that Murphy’s Law dictates are always around the corner.
When you find yourself in a leadership failure or debt, here are a few things you can do to get out of it:
First, own your leadership debt. You dropped the ball; you made a leadership mistake. It might have been a personnel decision, an ill-timed comment, or a lack of action on a situation that required your attention. Take responsibility.
Rebuild one step at a time. Attack the highest impact issues first. If people perceive you as a low-trust micromanager who can’t let go, start there. Begin with baby steps—don’t try to fix things overnight. Decide to first give small projects to your direct reports that they can handle and that you are comfortable with them managing. Start small and work on it over time. Practice giving clear direction and support.
Don’t repeat the mistake. This may sound simplistic, but you’d be surprised how difficult it is for some leaders to change the bad habits—lack of communication, mistrust, poor listening—that have stunted their leadership development. If needed, find someone who can help you be accountable.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore your leadership debt. Many leaders spend time blaming others for project deficiencies and low quality work. Frustration leads to complaining and then often to bitterness directed at the workgroup. No one wins in this situation and the problem still lingers.
In the words of Ice Cube, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”