How you respond when someone calls you out for a mistake makes a difference and says a lot about you as a person and as a leader. The culture of your organization can take a hit or be bolstered by how you react.
We do make mistakes and at times they may be public.
Sometimes we get called out as leaders. We should approach this situation as a learning opportunity (even when we don't appreciate the way the person did it).
I'll tell you what happened in my organization and how I handled it. Somebody sent out a video, and it was a Tik Tok challenge where parents were showing pictures mug shots and different pictures of people or people in a clown face or people making funny faces and said, “make sure that you look your best on the first day virtual learning.”
I actually didn't watch it myself but I had seen a similar one, so I replied this is funny. Levity is always welcome, especially during difficult times like a global pandemic. A couple of other staff members replied that it was funny. Most people saw it as something to provide comic relief during a trying time.
A staff member sent out an email saying, “when I first saw this video I wasn't comfortable and I wasn't sure why so I did a little research,” and he put a link to an article and wrote “no judgement, just want you to know.”
The article explained that people were stealing pictures of disabled people off of the internet and using it for this Tik Tok Challenge.
I made two mistakes, the first mistake was I didn't watch the whole thing through. I had seen a different one, and the pictures that I saw were not disabled people rather it was like mug shots, funny faces, or a clown. The second mistake was that I commented on it without viewing the entire thing.
I read his email, and I thought Okay, well I'm a person who responded and said that it was funny and now I'm educated. I decided to send a reply all to the entire organization that said, Dear so and so, Thank you for your information, I don't think any of us understood the genesis of this Tik Tok challenge thank you for educating us when we know better, we do better. DMC.
I sent it to the whole organization because they needed to know that I'm going to take responsibility if I was involved in something that made somebody feel uncomfortable.
My responsibility as a leader is to make sure that I make informed decisions. The teacher told me that it was refreshing to hear that I wanted to learn more and to grow because a lot of people were replying as if it was no big deal.
Responding when we get called out for making mistakes can be a really a slippery slope for us as leaders. If we say something like, thanks for the feedback, but you shouldn't use an all-staff email for things like this then it looks like we're trying to stifle the person.
So, if somebody is sends an email to your entire organization all and calls you out on something here are some tips on how to handle it.
1. Don’t be defensive. If you made a mistake own it. Even if you are embarrassed, as I was, learn and grow from it.
2. If it's true, then just deal with it. I screwed up sorry, you know I'm human. Seek to educate yourself about the mea culpa. If you were publicly called out, then publicly issue your mea culpa.
3. Depending on situation, have a meeting with that person. It could sound something like this, “thank you so much for your email I can see that equity work is really important to you. I'm wondering if it is possible next time for you to reach out to me or other staff directly instead of sending out a blast.” Explain that of course it is your own responsibility to educate yourself but if given the opportunity you would have liked to talk about and learn about the genesis of the issue rather than to read it in an organization wide email.
4. Thank the person for bringing your error to his/her/their attention.
I hope this helps when you make a mistake because as a human being you will....to err is human!
In the words of Maya Angelou, when you know better, you do better!
In Friendship, Love, and Leadership,