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The Times
  • Eric P. Bloom: Management gone wrong: 10 ways to fix your mistakes

  • OK, you blew it. Now what? As an individual contributor you thought being a manager was easy. Now that you have been in the role for a while you realized, like most things in life, it’s a lot harder than you thought.

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  • OK, you blew it. Now what?
    As an individual contributor you thought being a manager was easy. Now that you have been in the role for a while you realized, like most things in life, it’s a lot harder than you thought. That said, looking back at your time as a manager, you have done a pretty good job managing your team, working with other managers on cross-department initiatives, making your project deadlines, and getting the resources that your team needed to be successful. Then WHAM, you made a major mistake that cost the company a lot of money:
    - Or caused your best employee to walk into your manager’s office, complain about what you did and quit the company.
    - Or accidentally broke an important company policy.
    - Or caused a major customer to stop doing business with you.
    - Or accidentally broke a team member’s trust and now your entire team does not trust you.
    - Or any other bad thing that you can think of, but done with good intention.
    All of these mistakes have two things in common. First, they were all big mistakes. Second, they were unintentional. You tried your best, you had the best intentions, but it just didn’t go as you had planned. 
    You have made a big mess for yourself. You personally feel bad about it. You know that your boss is very upset. Your manager, team, and peers are now questioning your ability to properly lead your group. What do you do and, wow, how do you clean this up?
    1. Realize that you are not the first manager that has ever made a big mistake.
    2. Take responsibility for your error. Own up to what you did (or didn’t do). Everyone knows you did it; you might as well get credit for having the courage to admit it. 
    3. Work with your manager or others to try to correct your error, or at least minimize its effect.
    4. Be willing to learn from your mistake. A little personal soul searching and reflection can help make you a better manager and a better person.
    5. Don’t start second guessing yourself on every future design. Not only will you make yourself crazy, but your lack of willingness to make future decisions can hurt or destroy your job performance.
    6. Don’t continually remind others you work with about your mistake. Acknowledge it when needed, but once the dust settles, try to move on. Most likely, someone else will make a big mistake and everyone else will forget about yours and gossip about the newest issue.
    7. Analyze why the error/mistake happened with the goal of not letting it happen again. Was it just a bad day? Was it caused by a bad business process that could be improved? Could it have been prevented by an edit check in a computer program?
    Page 2 of 2 - 8. If you discover a way to prevent anyone else from making this mistake, try to facilitate the correction. This has two positive effects. First, it allows you to deflect some of the blame away from you, and second, you are truly helping protect the company from future employee-related errors.
    9. Take mental note of who was trying to help you and who was trying to take advantage of your error. This will help you decide who you can trust and who you can’t in the future.
    10. Realize that in 10 years or so, this episode will most likely seem much less important and will become a story that you tell friends at dinner when they make major professional mistakes.
    In closing, none of us want to make mistakes. But at the end of the day, we are all human and mistakes, misjudgments, and unforeseen consequences sometimes result. The trick is to keep your head, be resilient, and learn from the experience. There is an old expression that it’s not about how many times you fall in life, it’s about how many times you get back up.
    The primary advice and takeaways from today’s column is to know that:
    - No one is perfect. Even the best managers make big mistakes now and then. The trick is keeping your head and knowing how to rebound when it happens.
    - Following the 10 suggestions listed in the column may help you when you’re the one who makes the mistake.
    - There is an old expression that it’s not about how many times you fall in life, it’s about how many times you get back up.
    Until next time, manage well, manage smart and continue to grow.
    Eric P. Bloom, based in Ashland, Mass., is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC. He is also a nationally syndicated columnist, keynote speaker and author of the award-winning book “Manager Mechanics: Tips and Advice for First-Time Managers.” Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.

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