How to Approach Mistakes

Imagine that a person on your team makes a mistake. How would that person like you to deal with it? Knowing this can make the process of leading much easier and much more comfortable. Few leaders enjoy having to deal with someone who has made a mistake. But knowing beforehand how that person wants you to bring it to their attention makes it easier.

The best practice is to explain to each new team member that mistakes will occur, and to ask them how they would like you to deal with them. Do they want it brought up immediately after the mistake happens? Do they want you to wait a few hours, until after emotions have calmed down? Do they want it to be a private discussion, or are they secure enough that it can be corrected in front of a group? The latter helps ensure that others don’t make the same mistake and makes the leader’s job easier because he or she won’t have to go over the same mistake with many people individually. But for some people, that approach would be too embarrassing.

Part of being a good leader is anticipating what challenges lie ahead. Knowing this information in advance can pave the way toward a better relationship with your team.

The Leadership Coach is Peter Burwash, president of Peter Burwash International, which manages tennis instruction programs worldwide. His books are available through the Media Zone. He can be reached at