October 19, 2011
Yup, Even Your Boss Makes Mistakes
Once upon a time, a manager gave direction to one of his teammates on a project before going on vacation. The teammate followed his direction, even though he knew something looked off. The manager rarely made mistakes and the teammate was in a rush, feeling pressured by the manager’s boss and the client.
The manager’s boss checked the work and gave the go-ahead, the client signed off, and the teammate sent the work to another department to execute.
The other department contacted the teammate and told him something was wrong. He knew immediately what it was. It was the thing that he thought was originally wrong but had ignored because he was in such a hurry..
The teammate went to the manager’s boss and told him the problem.
The manager’s boss said, after some silence, “Well, it isn’t only your fault.”
How was that supposed to make the teammate feel? Is that how someone should be treated when they make a mistake?
Identify What Went Wrong
Besides the fact that three people were technically at fault in this situation (the teammate, the manager, and the manager’s boss), a sense of urgency allowed a mistake to happen:
- The manager was in a rush to go on vacation and didn’t double-check his work before giving it to the teammate.
- The teammate didn’t listen to his gut reaction that something looked off. He didn’t ask anyone before he submitted his work.
- The manager’s boss didn’t thoroughly double-check the teammate’s work.
This sense of urgency created double work. Everything had to be redone. Luckily, the mistake was caught before millions of dollars were spent.
But how many mistakes aren’t caught? How many people sacrifice quality for urgency?
Turn Mistakes Into Lessons Learned
- Listen to your gut.
- Check your work.
- Check other people’s work.
Think of better, more constructive ways to tell someone they made a mistake other than, “Well, it’s not only your fault.” Placing blame doesn’t help. You can’t change the past - instead, think about the solution.
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