When you are developing a new leader, what is the best way to handle failure and screw-ups? 

 Here is Dan Rockwell to share some great thoughts.

Originally posted by Don Rockwell

Screwing up and growth are connected.

Seth and Les Gold, tru TV stars of the reality show Hardcore Pawn, interviewed me for their Gold Tone podcast on CBS playit. They’re facing the challenges of a growing business.


Seth asked me about promoting an employee who didn’t work out. It seems the new leader didn’t handle authority with compassion.

The path of growth is littered with mistakes. You aren’t growing if you aren’t screwing up.

In some cases, hope blinds leaders to potential problems. In other cases, people change. If you get people-decision right over half the time, you’re probably doing good.


#1. Prepare yourself. Everyone screws up, especially new leaders.

  1. We learn and grow the most at the beginning of a new journey.
  2. Arm yourself with forward-facing forgiveness. Let go the past while aggressively pressing into the future.
  3. Monitor their aspirations to learn and grow. Discouragement ends growth.

#2. Don’t throw them under the bus. Let everyone know that making mistakes is a learning process.

#3. Evaluate yourself before others.

  1. Take ownership. You promoted them.
  2. How might you have better prepared them?
  3. What accountability structures did you neglect?

#4. Deal with public failures publicly. (All leadership failures end up public.)

  1. Everyone already knows things are going South.
  2. Transparency builds trust. When new leaders screw up, fess up.
  3. We “screwed up” is better than pretending everything’s OK.
  4. Expect the new leader to own their mistakes to the team.
  5. Talk with the team about the issues.
  6. Seek input and feedback.
  7. Develop a plan to make things better.

#5. Invite others to be part of the solution.

  1. What training is appropriate?
  2. How might teammates become allies?

#6. Monitor closely, at the beginning.

  1. Expect reports.
  2. Touch base with their teammates.

#7. Honor progress.

What might leaders do when new leaders screw up?

Listen to the interview on CBS playit.