Four coworkers are gathered in a storage room. The person on the far right of the image, a tall man with a beard and man bun, is speaking as the other three people watch him. The perosn on the far left has short dark hair and glasses, and they are sitting down, looking away from the viewer. The other two people are standing facing the viewer; on the left is a woman with brown hair tied back and one hand in the pocket of her jeans, and the person on the right is a bearded man wearing glasses. Against the wall behind the group is a shelving unit filled with boxes of various sizes.
Acknowledgement of a mistake should always include a sincere apology to show your team that you're holding yourself accountable. — Getty Images/shapecharge

Mistakes happen no matter how much career experience you have. When you’re in charge of a team, however, mistakes can be embarrassing. Even if you’re simply changing your mind about a decision you’ve already communicated, take the opportunity to be accountable. Here’s how to turn a mistake into a constructive, teachable moment for everyone.

Address the situation head-on

When you change your mind or realize you’ve made a mistake, be proactive about the situation before it escalates. Managers in particular need to be quick to communicate an error; otherwise, employees may spend time working on the wrong thing, leading to poor morale.

“Being proactive about addressing whatever took place demonstrates your awareness of the problem and relieves others from the potential discomfort of bringing it to your attention,” wrote Harvard Business Review.

Taking ownership of the situation can help you prevent frustration and avoid wasting company resources on the wrong thing.

Offer a sincere apology

Apologizing sends a clear signal to your team that you are holding yourself accountable—and expect the same from them. “Admitting you made a mistake shows employees that you’re willing to improve yourself and understand what you can do to be better. This motivates your employees to apologize to others as well and repeat the steps you took to acknowledge you were wrong,” wrote Indeed.

There’s a certain level of tact involved in making an apology to your employees. Be sincere and humble in your response, acknowledging the mistake you made and how it may have impacted others. Try not to make your apology about yourself or be defensive.

Even if you are simply changing your mind, an apology that acknowledges work that’s already been completed can go a long way.

[Read more: I’m the Founder of Southern Proper and This Was My Biggest Mistake]

Dwelling on a mistake makes it nearly impossible to move on. Show yourself compassion to move through the moment and release any feelings of guilt.

Make things right

It’s one thing to acknowledge when things go sideways, and another to get them on the right track. Depending on the situation, you may need to create a new course of action, offer a solution to your mistake, or make amends individually.

“While it is an act of integrity and accountability to admit and apologize for your error, you will only rebuild trust if you correct the behavior or issue. Share what you learned, how it’s going to be different, and commit to doing better,” wrote Harvard Business Review.

An apology is more meaningful when it arrives with a plan of action. Whether you’re taking personal responsibility for something or steering the team in a new direction, show up with a solution.

Be as transparent as possible

In instances where you’re changing your mind, transparency can help maintain momentum and keep your team motivated behind your visions. A sentence that’s as simple as “I know this is exactly the opposite of what I said two weeks ago. And here’s what I know now, and why I’ve changed my mind” can make a big difference, according to Leadership Coach Karin Hurt.

Focus on describing the new direction as clearly as possible. Make it easy for your team to change course without feeling like they’re going backward. Continue to communicate consistently and ask for feedback along the way to make sure everyone is on board.

[Read more: New Normal? The Most Effective Ways to Communicate Change To Your Employees]

Be compassionate

Dwelling on a mistake makes it nearly impossible to move on. Show yourself compassion to move through the moment and release any feelings of guilt. “Learn from your mistakes, eliminate any negative self-talk and then let it go. The mistakes you make won’t ruin your career, but how you react to them can,” wrote CNBC.

Setbacks can be embarrassing and demoralizing, but only if you are excessively self-critical. See your mistake as an opportunity to learn. How would you coach another team member going through this situation?

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