What Do You Do When You Make a Mistake?


Picture this: it’s a huge project and a very important one at that. Everyone is doing great, there have been some potholes, but the team got passed them. Then it happened, a big blunder, a huge error in the decision, you almost lost the project, and everyone had to pitch in additional effort just to save face. And the error was yours. How do you come in the next day? How do you get back on your feet?

Take a deep breath and think. Mistakes were made and cannot be un-made. The next and only direction is acceptance of responsibility.


1. Apologize. Take the hit, and apologize to your team and any other stakeholders that were affected by the mistake. Take full responsibility for the error and express remorse for any negative consequences that resulted from it.

2. Find the cause. Understand the root cause of the mistake. Do a thorough review of the project, talk to team members, and identify any areas of the process that may need improvement.

3. Suggest preventive measures. Work to implement preventative measures to ensure that the mistake does not happen again in the future. Suggest any changes that may need to be implemented.

4. Help the team recover. Even if the project is over, offer to assist the team in any way needed to help recover from the mistake. If you need to put in extra hours, additional tasks, or support, then so be it.

5. Be transparent. Be ever-present, and keep your lines open. If there are any developments, keep everyone informed. Be available to answer any questions they may have.

6. Show consistency over time. It can take time to regain the trust of your team, you made a mistake, and you must accept that. But, if you show consistency over time by following through on commitments, being accountable for your actions, and continuing to work on improving your skills and performance, there may be hope yet.


By taking these steps, I believe I can demonstrate to my team that I am committed to taking responsibility for my actions, preventing mistakes from happening in the future, and helping the team recover from any negative impacts.

It is natural for your team to have some level of stigma after a mistake of this nature, especially if it results in negative consequences.

Stay focused on your other tasks at hand and not dwell on the past. Mistakes are a normal part of any project, and the most important thing is to learn from them and move forward. Keep an open mind and attitude, be willing to learn from your team, and be open to feedback because there will be a lot of them, both positive, negative, and even snide remarks.

Do not forget to communicate regularly with your team and manager to demonstrate to gain their trust once more, approach with humility, but never let yourself get bullied.


DCC knows that mistakes are always there; this is why we promote the Growth Mindset in our management coachees. This mindset, when taught to leaders, allows them to see that mistakes are opportunities to learn and not negatives to dwell on. These leaders will know what to do in situations of errors and will rally the team to the next win. It’s time to transform your leadership through our Leadership Development programs. Learn more about the changes we can give you. Please email us at info@davidcouperconsulting.com.