We are having trouble getting some of our employees to pay attention when they make mistakes. It’s almost like they get in a groove and can’t get themselves out of it. When there’s a mistake, we discuss it. The employees tell me they get it and then turn around and do it again. What am I doing wrong?
Thoughts of the Day: Make sure employees understand that making mistakes is part of learning. Point out the need to improve and cite other examples of when and where employees have done exactly that, made a mistake and then taken action to improve. Talk about improvement as an opportunity to get ahead. The examples you set leading the organization are critical to the company’s long-term success.
Mistakes happen, sometimes it’s due to habits built up over time, and sometimes its due to lack of employee training.
Build on what employees do right. Accept that mistakes happen, and sometimes people have built up habits for doing things that get in the way of changing. Stay alert for mistakes that inevitably happen and know when to step in and say something about it.
Check if the employee is missing skills; the employee may need additional training. Ask the employee to explain what happened and why they chose to take the actions they did. Explain where the breakdown may have occurred from your point of view. Ask employees to respond by talking through how they might do the task differently next time. Then create opportunities to try again, with supervision.
Presenting facts instead of assessments help to ensure that mistakes will be properly reported and avoided in the future.
Make sure you can talk about the facts of what happened. If another employee or manager reported seeing or hearing something problematic, get corroboration. Encourage employees to be accountable by coming forward with examples of mistakes that they need help correcting.
Build confidence in employees by starting the discussion with success examples, things the employee has done right.
State your confidence that the employee will get this one right, too. Talk through specific corrections or steps the employee has to follow in order to make things work the way you want them to work. Ask the employee to restate back to you what steps will be taken to complete the task correctly. Correct a mistake and ask the employee to play it back from the beginning. Once the employee can describe actions to take, have him or her go do it, and monitor steps being taken. In case of missteps, intercede and explain what is off track. Stick with it until the employee can perform the task without error. Thank the employee for sticking with it and offer congratulations on a job well done.
Train employees to build new and better habits to increase mastery.
Explain how making changes will lead to higher skill levels and that mastering the correct way to do things will lead to success in the organization. Reinforce that doing things the right way saves the company money, insures happier customers and improves the company’s reputation for a job well done. These are all values for which the company stands, and which lead to the outstanding reputation the company enjoys in its market. Congratulate the employee on being part of the effort to ensure the company keeps its standing as an excellent provider of products or services.
Encouraging employees to work smarter and build skills works out better than ruling through fear and tyranny.
As the leader, you want to encourage employees to come forward, seek help and learn from mistakes. Employees who know they’re working in a learning environment are more likely to seek help, learn faster and stick with difficult tasks until they’re mastered. Provide correction not criticism when things go wrong. Keep in mind that people are wired to want to do a good job and that when things go wrong it’s because of a misunderstanding. Your job is to correct that misunderstanding in a positive way and reinforce the correct way to do things until it becomes a habit.
Looking for a good book?
Try “Leadership Gameplan for Success: 12 Lessons for Extraordinary Performance and Personal Excellence” by Coach John Wooden and Steve Jamison.