I recently re-learned a leadership lesson from my wife. She is part of a local mom's club and recently helped put together a Preschool fair at a local church. The fair itself was a charity event. She worked with roughly 20 different schools, and several other organizations and sponsors. There was advertising, scheduling, cost control; it was a regular project. But there was a tripping point...
One of the sponsors who paid for advertising and donated to the Help Center is a franchise opportunity. One of the members of the mom's club also owned a franchise in the same organization. When the announcement of the sponsors was made, this person was a little upset (although she was good enough not to show it during the meeting). My wife learned of the mistake after the event, and even talked with me about how to handle it.
She handled it very well, without my advice. She contacted the person the next day and apologized. explaining that she wasn't aware of the member's involvement with the organization and that she was sorry if it caused any issues. She admitted fault quickly, said she was sorry, and the member from the club accepted the apology, confirming her invitation to my wife for a party the following weekend. My wife attended the party and had a great time.
What is the lesson here? First, that everyone is fallible. Everyone makes mistakes, even leaders. The lesson is to admit your mistake quickly after realizing it, accept responsibility, and then move on. my wife did just that. She quickly admitted her mistake to the other member of the club, apologized without trying to pass blame on somebody else (well, if you had told me you were an owner...) and then moved on quickly after the apology (admittedly, the club member helped in this regard by inviting my wife to the party).
Too often today we find people passing blame, and trying to rationalize everything, including their mistakes. Too few admit fault. Perhaps that is why when somebody actually admits fault, and takes the burden by himself/herself there is so much power in it. People want to follow somebody who can admit and accept their mistakes. But, there is a caveat... you cannot dwell on them.
I am sure we all know people who grump about "if only..." for years after the fact, often times the words following that statement aren't happy, and don't accept responsibility for what occurred. These types of people tend to find themselves lost in their woes, and nobody is the willing to hang around with them, let alone follow them.
So, here is the challenge. The next time you make a mistake: admit, apologize, and accept (hey, another use for AAA), then move on! And if your team makes a mistake, help them through the process as well. After all, everyone makes mistakes. But once the process is over, take the lesson from the mistake; not the guilt or burden. Leave that behind, with the mistake!