Why not pointing out a mistake can be a sign of a good leader…

I don’t really like to make mistakes, well, not big ones. I also don’t like to waste money or time. I’ll assume I’m not alone on that.

This past weekend I made a pretty big mistake, nothing catastrophic, only aesthetic. I believe I made this mistake because I was in a hurry and not mentally awake. Sounds like a cop out? Maybe but, it’s true. The weekdays leading up to this decision were bouncy, and by that I mean, my schedule was unstable. Plus I was knee deep in a full reconciliation of a supplier contract that was arduous and unfavourable, which put me in a bad mood. Then add in general stress, and commitments that were getting pushed around by mother nature, and a dose of existing lethargy from a very busy work year to date. All equating to a non-acute decision-making, easily-influenced state of mind.

As I struggled to sleep last night I realized that not making good decisions is super hard for me, in fact, likely one of the hardest things for my brain to sort out. For the most part, I am malleable, I can adapt to situations or circumstances. But when I make a bad decision because I chose not to do the homework, or research, or simply don’t take my time, I get on regret overload. It is overwhelming and actually, can make me feel sick. 

You could ‘shrink’ me and look at my childhood or my family of origin or you could accept how certain things haunt certain people and in fact, make their lives harder. I also know that I can change my thoughts, but can’t we all? And I bet not many of us do. 

It is abundantly clear to me where I went wrong. So here is my question; when you have an employee, child, student – anyone, who has made a wrong turn and it is apparent to them and everyone, what is the value of pointing that mistake out? 

Let me add some clarity; if someone makes a mistake that is obvious to them and you, do you need to tell them they have made that mistake and offer a correction? Or would the better step be to offer some empathy and ask them if you can help? If I could choose, I would option that you ask me if I need help sorting it out or putting it in perspective. That you show care and concern for my personal experience, and equally show understanding for how I might be feeling, no matter if its rational or reasonable. Instead of beating me over the head with my mistake, you help me see how next time will be better. And you help me concede that being human, means making mistakes.

As a leader, its up to you to help your team learn from their mistakes and yes, to identify mistakes where they don’t see them. But another key part of your influence is to be kind and empathetic when you know they are aware of their error, and to help protect them from their own psyche; which I suspect is doing a fine job of beating them up. After all, who of us can purport to always doing the right thing? Always being on time, or on track? Always being decisive, accurate and focused. I suspect not one of us, certainly not me. 
Sometimes the ‘gold’ in the golden rule is being a source of kindness when we are unable to show kindness to ourselves. 

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