5 Immediate Steps When you’ve Blown It as a Leader

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Every leader faces it.

The blown call. The missed opportunity. The missed goal. The failed plan.

For leaders it’s not a question as to whether or not you’ll make a big blunder at some point. The only question is, “How will you respond?”

When you’ve dropped the ball in your leadership, the following 5 steps are critical in order to restore credibility and get things back on track.

Don’t let time pass. As soon as you’re aware of a leadership failure move immediately to these five steps:

1.   Own it

Start by staring down the mistake, raise your hand and admit to yourself, “That’s my responsibility”.

Don’t own more than you are actually responsible for, but at the same time don’t shy away from your responsibility.

2.   Assess it

In the immediate aftermath of a failed plan the first reaction can be to over-estimate the damage. Take a moment. Breathe. Honestly assess the impact of the error.

You might discover that the damage is less than you imagined. That said, don’t minimize it either. Take the time to accurately assess the fallout.

3.   Acknowledge it

Every leader answers to someone; a board, a congregation, a committee, a supervisor. Once you’ve owned the mistake personally and assessed the damage, you must meet with those to whom you are accountable. And you must openly acknowledge exactly what has happened.

Don’t shirk your responsibility. Don’t blame. Simply acknowledge your culpability, take your lumps, and move directly to step 4.

4.   Fix it

A wise leader once defined leadership as being all about solving problems, whether you inherited them or caused them yourself.

In this case, having caused the problem you now face, there’s no more time to wallow in it. Having owned it, assessed it, and acknowledged it, you just need to fix it.

5.   Learn from it

The cycle is not complete until you have clearly identified the answers to these questions:

  • What happened?
  • What went wrong?
  • What went right?
  • How will we ensure this doesn’t happen again?

No one likes failure. But in leadership it’s going to happen.

The only question is, “How will you respond”?

If your goal is to gain maximum leverage from the failure, these 5 steps are a good starting place.

How do you respond when you’ve blown it?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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