Doing and deciding guarantees mistakes. Success requires mistakes. Innovation involves mistakes. Mistakes are the price of progress. Mistakes help us learn, grow, and excel.

You never want employees afraid to admit mistakes. Even worse would be a culture which encourages them to hide them. If this persists, problems multiply and the organization could experience a real crisis completely avoidable had small mistakes been effectively addressed when they actually occurred.

Leaders – especially front-line supervisors – need to address mistakes when they occur. If not, they are repeated by the employee and replicated by others. The new policy is we do not follow the policy. Policies and procedures usually have solid rationales. Either ensure adherence or change the policy.

When you speak with the member of the team, start positive. Secondly, learn why they did what they did. There may be a good explanation like direction from a prior supervisor who did not follow policy. Confirm causes to select solutions. Thirdly, identify what resources or remedies are needed to ensure policy compliance and employee success. Fourthly, ask what you need to do as a leader to help them achieve the right performance. Fifthly, go over why the mistake occurred, what the employee is expected to now do differently, and ensure a clear and mutual understanding. Lastly, provide any needed tools or resources the employee needs to attain strong performance and make sure you as a supervisor or manager follow-up to confirm their positive progress. Please end the conversation on an encouraging note.

Supervisors and managers make two major mistakes. They either ignore the problem or they come down too hard on a good employee. Both undermine performance. Allowing the same employee to not follow policies and procedures or adhere to the culture also hurts teamwork and morale. Our successes and failures as leaders are never invisible to others.

Your team must feel safe to admit and make mistakes. Leaders should be the example. Let your team be free to fail, fail up, and fail forward.