We all make mistakes. We are human. We are not expected to be perfect. If you are expecting perfection, your focus is misguided.
Knowing that it’s not a matter of if or when a mistake will happen, how you handle a mistake is a true testament to your character. If you are a leader, and your team makes a mistake, they will look to you for how to respond.
Acknowledge. You must first acknowledge the mistake happened. AS SOON AS YOU ARE AWARE IT HAPPENED. There is no partial credit here. If you wait until someone calls you out on it, you do have to own it at that time, but the first question will be “when did this happen?” Stay in front of it.
Apologize in your Words. You may not be at fault for the mistake. Fault does not equal responsibility. However, you must express your most sincere apology and express empathy for those affected. If you get defensive, you will lose all trust and respect.
Trust is the currency of leadership. Guard it. Own your mistakes. Admit when you mess up and encourage your team to do the same. It makes you human. We need more humans in business.
Apologize in your Actions. You must not only communicate the error, but you must communicate what steps you (you, your team, the organization) is making to ensure the error does not happen again as well as what you are doing to make it right. Then you have to hold yourself and others accountable that those things are done.
Do the Right Thing. I don’t have to tell you what that is. You already know. Trust your gut.