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How Do You Respond When Your Employee Goofs Up?

Leadership Lessons by Sheri Miller

When I was in my 20’s, I was tasked by the company I was working with to see if “Telemarketing” could be a viable way for us to make money.

My boss, who I had been working with for a couple of years, gave me the challenge and free reign to make it happen. The only instructions he gave me were, “make two weeks of calls and let’s see what happens.” I am sure I fumbled around for a bit, first trying to figure out what Telemarketing meant, what I would want to offer and whom I would call.

When it all came together, I picked up the phone and started contacting customers. (Still, my boss was nowhere in sight.) Weeks later, I had really good and really bad news for him. 33% of our customers were interested in this new offer and thus I had brought in additional sales that we would not have had, had I not made the calls. The bad news? I goofed on the pricing and ended up selling the products for LESS THAN COST!

I felt awful! I can still remember my boss’s reaction when I went into his office to give him the report. He looked at me with a peaceful smile on his face, told me he knew I could make this a success. When I commented about doing it for below cost his only comment was, “I know you won’t do that again.”

A couple of years later, I moved to another department in the company. When I left, the lady who took my place made the numbers I achieved look like a pittance in comparison to what she was able to accomplish. I was glad for the company and for her. For me, I left feeling really great knowing that I was able to start something and show it could be successful. I also left with some huge lessons. When you believe in someone, give them the freedom to try something new. Create some guidelines and let them go, knowing that mistakes quite possibly will happen along the way. 


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