Costly Mistake a Reminder of Seven Keys to Successful Crisis Resolution


Oftentimes in business, mistakes are made that can be costly to a company, and crisis pursues.  These mistakes or oversights are not always made by people who are unskilled or inexperienced or who do not know any better, but many times by the very people you would expect to have seen and prevented such mistakes from happening in the first place.  It happens.  The most important thing that management must learn in those times when such mistakes happen is that there is a right way and a wrong way to address staff mistakes and oversights, and how to handle the crisis that ultimately follows when it happens.

My hope is that if you are reading this, and you are faced with a major crisis that is a result of mistake or oversight by your staff is that you choose the RIGHT way to address the situation. I was recently the recipient of a major crisis that had to practice what I always preach to my consulting clients – the seven keys to successful crisis resolution – and I have to say, it really made a positive difference in the outcome. Let me tell you what happened.

Recently, we had a major mistake and oversight take place with our staff.  I mean major!  As some of you already know, we lost tons of our content for this and several other Websites that I operate.  As expected, we have gotten a lot of mail from followers, clients, customers, and friends asking what happened.  Simply put, in our attempt to switch from virtual dedicated servers to dedicated servers, and to consolidate a large amount of data (mainly content), we lost a great deal of it in the process – a huge amount actually. …about five years worth, including our content repository for our content subscription services through UwriteNet.com.  Whew!… Talk about a cold shower on a cold day….  We were very fortunate not to lose our encrypted client data, but still just the same, OUCH!  Whoever says a technology-savvy company can’t make mistakes does not have humans working for it.

To answer the million dollar question, “No, nobody was fired.” (even though I have seen and heard of people being fired for even a small fraction of such a mistake in many companies that I have consulted for (typically those with employee retention problems and poor productive).  In my eyes – call me naive’ if you want – to err is human, to forgive divine (or at least to be really understanding).  So here is the skinny on it for those of you techies that are wondering just how something like this could happen.  Honestly, I think it was a case of ‘everyone’ thinking that ‘someone’ had double checked our back-ups, but ending up that ‘anyone’ that could have done it left it for ‘someone’ to do, and ultimately it got left for ‘no one’ in charge of doing it.  I think there is a really great blog post about all of this in here somewhere… Anyway, the result was the loss of a lot of very good content – some of which was from over my twenty years of writing on business, business management, and brand development.

Housecleaning Note:  To our paid subscribers, for those of you who have wondered where in the world our subscriber content sections for this and other related Websites have gone, please forgive us for the lack of access to all the training content you have had previously.  We have suspended our monthly subscription billing until we are able to recover and re-publish the content that is supposed to be in our members area. Thanks for your understanding on this.  We are working on it around the clock, and will keep you in the loop on our progress.  Coaching Webinars will continue as usual.

Back to the subject of this article now…

A client recently asked, “what did I learn from this, and from an administrative perspective, how did we go about addressing staff mistakes and oversights?  Here are the seven keys to successful crisis resolution when working with staff mistakes and oversights that were used which included administrative mindset mandates as much as anything else:

1)  The buck stops with me (the top guy, the leader, the boss, the one in charge).

Suck it up and take responsibility for being a leader.  Even when those you lead and those who you have put in positions of responsibility fail, the responsibility of your overall success starts and ends with you.  If we as leaders cannot take responsibility for our actions (or our lack of action) and be willing to share the burden of responsibility for the mistakes of our staff and followers, then we disqualify ourselves as good leaders.  Too many ‘leaders’ in the corporate arena and in government – especially the the US government – do not take personal responsibility for their actions or the actions of those they oversee.  In my personal case, my lack of action and my not confirming with those who work for me that what needed to be done was indeed done ended up costing our vendors, clients, and visitors to our Websites a great deal of inconvenience, and costing our staff and our company a great deal of time and money.

Although I may have had managerial protocols in place and previously assigned responsibilities to others to take care of various aspects of our website(s) content management and protection, I was the one that did not revisit the mandate and ensure that the actions that were to have been put in place in such a situation were actually executed as required by those who were to have been the ones to do them.  In short, when you don’t do your job, don’t blame shift.  Take responsibility and show that you can lead, even when you are not perfect.

2)  Always Always ALWAYS double check to make sure that when a member of your team in on leave of absence, that their replacement or job responsibility stand in KNOWS what is required of them. 

Never assume everyone knows everything, even if they are in the same department and have the same level of expertise. If they are not the manager under normal circumstances, they do not necessarily know everything that the manager knows or that the manager is responsible for.  Revisit the principle of staff depth training within the ranks of your company so that someone is always ready to step in and continue without the progress of the project, department, division, or company itself suffering.

3)  Be willing to forgive and move forward when you know that the mistakes of others or their blunders are not intentional or malicious.  We all make mistakes.  Even more so, when someone intentionally wrongs you, even though you may have to sever that relationship (temporarily or permanently), be quick to forgive and quick to forget the offense, but remember the lesson learned. 

We all fall short. We have all sinned. We are all subject to momentary lapses of reason, wisdom, and prudence. OK, I will speak for myself here, but I have a feeling if you have read this far in this post, you might be in the same boat with me on this.  Successful crisis resolution involves forgiveness.  The power of forgiveness cannot be understated here.  It brings with it a freedom to trust again, to remain steadfast to the commitments you have made with someone, and it allows you to rise above mediocrity.

Anyone can hold a grudge or resentment and become bitter, but exceptional people do not live in the past and continue to dig up the failures and mistakes of others from their past.  They move forward.  They remain encouragers for reconciliation, and they do not blame shift when things go wrong, or attack those who fail.  True leaders are bridge builders, not bridge burners. True leaders are those who seek to bring reconciliation and restoration in the midst of wrong doing, conflict, failure and mistakes.

There is no need for conflict when mistakes happen.4)  Whenever a major incident happens in any department, be quick to step in and defuse any potential strife or arguments or dissension BEFORE it gets a foothold in that department.

In the case of our recent loss, I am happy to say that not a single individual pointed a finger at anyone else.  Instead, almost everyone in the chain of command and surrounding the chain of command stepped up and said, “I thought about that possibility, but didn’t think to say anything.  I was sure someone else had it covered.  I am sorry.”  [Golly! I love my staff. It has not always been that way with past staff.]

Some of you might think this totally wierd, but for me, I was almost in tears that my staff – many of them more highly qualified than myself in most areas of expertise – would be so quick to step up and admit they dropped the ball.  They were willing to take the bullet for an absent member of our team.  How absolutely stupid cool is that!? I remember my dad teaching me early in my life that a leader does not build a great organization of followers, but a growing organization of new leaders as capable as himself.  I know he was smiling down on this situation.

5)  Take the time to review departmental management and work delegation protocols periodically.

Admittedly so, although this is a no-brainer in managerial performance, I have been lax in emphasizing this to my staff as much as I should have been.  Although this often happens organically as a matter of business-as-usual by some of my programming staff and branding personnel, it is no excuse not to revisit things like this by an administrator from time to time.  Better to be seen as an over-worrier, than someone that is not actively involved in the day to day process of company success whether through hands on or delegated involvement.

Take the time to subscribe to a periodic re-assessment of how work and job responsibilities are to function, and how periodic gaps in the overall departmental function are to be handled and by whom.

6)  Don’t beat yourself up over a mistake, even if it is a big mistake!  Be quick to address it, solve the problem, and move on. Be a one minute manager and a one minute problem solver, and get on with business.

One reminder to those over-caffeinated managers that might be reading this. DON’T beat up anyone that made a mistake for too long, and never in front of their peers.  If they are truly regretful and sorry for their mistake, address the error, how it can be prevented in the future, secure an understanding and agreement by all parties how it will be addressed, then move on.  I am thankful to say no one beat me up over this for me not being more attentive to the little things that I normally am attentive to.  When this accidental data loss took place, I was quickly reminded of a principle I learned from “The One Minute Manager” that I read about 25 years ago.  It was specific to that of disciplinary actions.  In essence, find the problem, address it, correct it, and move on. Most of this can be done in a matter of a minute or so.  And, in our case with content for our original company Website, we did just that.  We realized the problem, addressed it without a lot of emotional hoopla, corrected the problem so that it would not happen again, and we are now moving on.  Too many people get stuck in their emotions when ‘bad things’ or ‘unfair things’ or the ‘wrongs of others’ happen.  Life is too short to focus on the negative. Get on with the things that are most productive!

7)  After the dust settles from a major setback or incident, as leaders or managers, we are to set the pace and elevate the attitude of the ranks so that morale is not adversely affected.  I am not saying reward a department for their mistakes, but rather, become a drive-by encourager.  Go out of your way to say words of encouragement towards all those affected.  The power of encouragement is amazing.  Don’t negate it in your company, and if you are a part of a family unit, NEVER negate it in your family.  Your children need to be encouraged with your words, not manipulated, talked down to, or ordered around with your words.  Let encouragement be a part of everyday life in your company.  One way to do that is to give out a monthly Encourager of the Month award.

Thanks for tuning in here!  I remain for your success in every meaningful and lasting way.

Ruined for the ordinary,

David Ward

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3 Thoughts to “Costly Mistake a Reminder of Seven Keys to Successful Crisis Resolution”

  1. A fine article Mr. Ward. Thank you for contributing to the needs of others as you do.

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