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Team-Building: Recovering From An Enormous Error
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Team-Building: Recovering From An Enormous Error - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Recovering From An Enormous Error

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Recovering From An Enormous Error

Gigantic, expensive, boneheaded mistakes. They’re going to happen, and when they do, your team’s responses in their wake are both revealing and developmental. Good or bad, the bounce-back reveals a team’s flaws and strengths. Good or bad, responses to major errors influence teamwork and camaraderie. More than just teachable moments, these situations are real-world team-building activities—ropes courses without the make-believe.

If at all possible, when your team rolls through the aftershocks of a huge mistake, let it go through the post-mortem on its own, but keep an eye open for finger-pointing, scapegoating, or any kind of avoidance. It’s critical that everyone on the team knows what has been lost, whether it’s money, opportunity, or credibility, and that the focus is not on who’s responsible but how to avoid a repeat. Those directly responsible will own their mistakes on a healthy team, while those not directly involved will absorb the situation as a team error. If they don’t, this is the time for the pep-talk, the moment where you step in and remind them, just as you would at the first station on a ropes course, that everyone’s contribution is essential: this is how everyone must approach the problem-solving ahead.

Then it’s not a bad idea to step away. Empower the team to approach the problem its own way, and then to agree on workable, effective solutions. It’s important to make the entire process theirs, and to provide the level of support they require. Depending on how many levels of management you’re working with here, most of the problem should require little more support from you than the administrative or procedural structure they request, but if they come forward with a solution resulting in less efficacy for the team itself, here’s your chance to reinforce your faith in their ability and judgment.

Taking away the mechanism that resulted in the gigantic error isn’t a real solution and it doesn’t do your team any good. It’s tempting for them (and possibly for you) to solve the problem by passing the future buck up the chain. This is team-weakening at its seemingly most innocuous. Of course it will mean the team doesn’t make the mistake anymore, because it takes the power away from the team that enabled the mistake in the first place. A real solution helps the team find its own way to safeguard its work, and of course that’s scarier for the team, but a ropes course isn’t much of a ropes course if it’s only six inches off the ground, and you don’t have the time for micromanaging. If necessary, explain that the proposed solution doesn’t take enough advantage of the team’s strengths and abilities, and you need those strengths and abilities or they wouldn’t be on the job.

This really goes without saying, but make sure there’s some debriefing on the problem-solving process itself, and then schedule a review session with the whole team to evaluate the new procedure or structure. Encourage positive collaboration with honest feedback. We’ve said this a hundred times, but it’s worth repeating: authentic bonding happens when people do meaningful work together. Solving the problem that leads to a costly error is super-meaningful, and by empowering your team to do the work on its own, you strengthen relationships and improve teamwork.


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Team-Building: Recovering From An Enormous Error - Executive Leadership Articles

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