How to Coach Employees Through a Failure

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Feb 4, 2019

How can you mentor employees and turn a failure into success? There’s no magic switch to flip to transform poor workers into employees of the month. But when honest mistakes happen — and everyone makes them – they can serve as opportunities for improvement.

Good managers will approach the problem from a positive perspective, working through the mistake with the employee or the team to see why things went wrong and how to avoid making the mistake in the future. Accountability doesn’t take a back seat, but it is tempered by placing the emphasis on learning from the mistake.

Here are some tips to help you coach employees through mistakes.

Reign in your emotions — Motivating your employees begins with you. Your attitude toward an employee’s failure greatly influences the ability of that employee to bounce back. According to research, the emotions of a team leader are so contagious that they can overshadow the emotions of individuals in a team. The collective positive emotions at work and the resilience of employees are impacted by the emotions of their managers. Make sure you deal with your disappointment and other negative emotions before talking to your employees.

Give your employees some room — All your employees need some elbow room. If you don’t give them some space, even after making a mistake, they’re most likely to resent you. If you’ve ever felt fenced in, pressured, or even over-controlled, chances are that you resented the feeling. When your employee makes a mistake at work, they don’t want you all over them trying to show them how they should have gone about their work. Micromanagement often results in high employee dissatisfaction and high turnover rates.

Show them what went wrong – Helping employees see what they got wrong goes a long way in helping them recover from their failure. It is one of the coaching employee tips managers should incorporate in all of their attempts to motivate employees. The best way to go about it is to hold a frank and honest discussion. Don’t sugar coat the mistake. It may be uncomfortable for you as a manager to give negative feedback, but employees actually want the truth. For coaching to be effective, the employee needs to know the exact reason behind the failure.

Do not point fingers — While being clear about what went wrong, don’t get carried away and start pointing fingers. Rather than focusing on who is responsible, it’s better to pay attention to what went wrong. Do not attack their character. Let them understand how the mistake occurred and how they can avoid the mistake in the future. When you make feedback a regular practice, it diminishes the negative effect and helps employees become more receptive.

End by looking ahead — Having done all that, you’ll want to close the coaching program by shifting the employee’s focus from the failure to success. Review what’s been learned from the mistake and be sure to leave on a positive note.

With these five strategies, coaching employees through mistakes should be easier and more productive.

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