When Someone Fails

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”—Alexander Pope

If you have ever been in a leadership role, this has happened to you. Someone has accepted an assignment, and you not only expect them to complete it, but you are depending on them to do it. Then they pull out, fail to show up, or don’t follow through. What’s a leader do in this situation?

First, don’t get angry. You are not only wasting your energy but your time as well. What is done is done, so focus all that energy on assessing the situation, picking up the pieces, and moving on. If the task is important, give your attention to completing it.

Second, recognize your responsibility. Did you fail to provide something that the person needed? Were you disconnected and not aware of their progress or lack thereof? Where did communication break down? Accept responsibility if necessary. Now that’s out of the way. Let’s move on.

Third, as my Granddaddy used to say, “Pull up your britches and get to work.” In other words, what are you going to do next? This is still your responsibility. What can you do to salvage the situation, make up for what did not get done, or come up with a new approach? Who needs an apology and a promise that you will work to avoid this happening again? Get it done.

Fourth, look for help. Who and what resources are available to you to carry through on the responsibility? Are there others will come alongside on short notice and help accomplish the task? Perhaps it will not be done on time or as well as you wish, but you can get it done.

Fifth, restore relationship. Even if someone let you down, don’t write them off. Seek a way to continue in fellowship. In the Book of Acts (15:36-41), Barnabas provides us a good example of giving young John Mark a second chance after he failed to follow through the first time. Later accounts in Paul’s epistles testify to the correctness of Barnabas’s approach.

Have you ever failed to do what you had agreed to do? Most of us have, myself included, and I always appreciated a second chance.

Rev. Dr. Ircel Harrison, Coaching Coordinator, PLA