How to Respond When Someone Makes a Mistake

It was a lazy Saturday and we decided to grill some chicken legs as part of dinner.  As the official grillmaster for our family, I dutifully warmed the sacred grates.  When our legs got charred, we took them off and brought them into the kitchen.  As the rest of the meal was just about done, Cary (always responsible with food) decided to cut into the chicken.  They weren't cooked.

On to Plan B which included finishing the chicken on the stovetop.  

My work was done or so I thought.  I retreated to the porch and did some reading which was only interrupted by a smell of smoke.  The chicken, unattended by Cary, was cooking alright but the bottom of the pan was darker than ... well, you get the point.  My wonderful wife had gotten lost in some reading herself and forgot to check the chicken.

Was it her fault or mine? Probably hers but that's not so important.  Lord knows I've burnt many a meal, and that's when I was watching things closely.  

The key is this: what should you do when you or someone on your team makes a mistake?  I suggest four steps:


  1. Name it so that it doesn't happen next time. Ok, it happened so call it like it is and make sure it doesn't occur next time.
  2. Don't make a huge deal about it.  Sometimes the worse you make someone feel is a reflection of an issue you have inside of yourself.
  3. Realize that you've made some mistakes along the way too.  'Nuff said.
  4. Have a sense of humor.  Instead of minimizing the mistake, humor can show the other person that you still care about them and can laugh at even a bad situation.


Mistakes happen and none of us are immune to them.  The key is to respond with love and professionalism so that they are minimized for the future.  

Photo courtesy of FDP