Back ‘em first, kill ‘em later…

Back em firstOur folks make mistakes.

I know, that’s heresy, but it’s still true. We make mistakes all the time, we can only assume that the people working for us do as well.

So, when they do make that mistake, what do we do? Whack ’em immediately? Beat ’em up about it? Public humiliation?

How about, Complete unequivocal support.

Wait… WHAT??

Now, of course I’m assuming that the mistake we are discussing isn’t patently illegal or unethical, and that it’s not so incredibly egregious as to start a rampant trend of wanton stupidity throughout the organization… so, given those broad parameters, how about we make this a learning event by:

  1. Acknowledging the mistake in private. Let the employee or manager know that you know, and that we need to find a satisfactory way to get past and/or correct the mistake.
  1. Allow the employee or manager to find and/or create the resolution for the mistake, and
  1. Support the manager publicly with his actions. Don’t torpedo a manager to his subordinates; when they come to you talking about the dumb decisions, claim ignorance of all the facts and circumstances, and state clearly–unequivocally–that you support the manager’s decision. If they have any issue with that, recommend they take it up with that manager.

Here’s how this would play out… Subordinate manager makes a decision. A bad one. A real bonehead move. A decision that simply cannot stand. You, Ms. Executive, call Captain Bonehead into your office (or conference room, smoking area, whatever) and let him know—in no uncertain terms—that the decision has the potential to be a Letterman Top 10 if you allowed it to stand. Which you are not.

You then give the good Captain a choice: Either he goes back to his people and tells them that, upon further reflection, revelation, divine inspiration, etc., he has changed his mind and now has a new, better decision. Everyone cheers, all is right in the world. OR… you intend to strut like a full-feathered peacock into the dead-center of his department and summarily and loudly reverse his decision, effectively making the guy a managerial eunuch with negative numbers on the credibility scale.

His choice. More like an I.Q. test.

After all, defending a wrong decision, or accepting responsibility for its correction, is part of management maturity, and needs to be learned through experience.

Let’s don’t cheat our folks out of our support, nor the opportunity to learn from mistakes. After all, as the old saw goes, they are the best teacher…

Besides, if they then make that mistake again, we can kill ’em with a clear conscience…

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