“Fess Up” and Address Problems that You Cause

All of us commit mistake at times. Reasons for it vary from each person and situation but you shouldn't feel bad if you notice that it happens to you. A couple of common mistakes can lead to miscommunication and you can learn to be more conscious of what you're doing and saying.

“Here's the TenStep guest blog post ""Fess Up" and Address Problems that You Cause":

No one is perfect. A project manager typically does the best job he can given the information that is available at the time. However, there are times when issues arise because of a mistake that the project manager makes. This could be a mistake in communication, a mistake in estimation, a mistake in understanding the project deliverables, etc.

Issues management is normally a cold and logical process involving problem identification and resolution techniques. However, these specific types of issues can be especially difficult to resolve since the project manager may feel some defensiveness (and perhaps embarrassment) for having caused the problem to begin with. Sometimes that fact that the problem was caused by the project manager makes it difficult to address the problem openly and in a timely manner. If this happens to you, use the following steps to deal with it effectively.

  • 1. Own the problem. This is where the "fess up" (slang term for "confessing") starts. You must first recognize the problem and own-up to the fact that you caused it. If you cause the problem but try to blame it on others, you will find that resolving the problem is much more painful for you. If you caused the problem, or if you were partially at fault, be mature and honest enough to own it.
  • 2. Communicate openly. You may be surprised how liberating it can be to just come right out and say that you blew it! If you own and communicate that you made a mistake, others will no longer feel the need to play the “blame game” – you have already admitted it! Your team can move quickly into resolving the problem instead.
  • 3. Resolve the problem coolly and calmly. Look for alternatives and resolve the problem using your normal issues management techniques. Don’t get caught up in the personal pain by acting defensive or by looking for ways that you can save face. Given the mistake made, look for the best resolution for your project.
  • 4. Learn from the mistake. Generally each mistake you make can be turned into a learning experience. You can put better processes in place if that is appropriate. You can also take a personal key-learning and change your management processes (maybe even slightly) so that this type of problem does not occur again.

It is common for managers to state that the only positive to come out of a bad experience is that they learn not to do it again. It would be great if there were better places to learn than the “school of hard knocks.” However, as stated earlier, none of us are perfect either. When you make a major mistake, own up to it and communicate quickly. Then figure out how to overcome the problem and make personal adjustments so that the problem never occurs again.

If you will handle problems like this you will generally find that people give you the benefit of the doubt, and in fact many will even admire you for the way you address these personal challenges.

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