Your Employee Just F*cked Up. Here's What You Do:

angry boss

I was recently involved with a company (not as an investor) where an embarrassing mistake was made.  One of the leaders took a sort of “heads will roll” approach.  It’s not my company so I basically stayed out but tried to encourage him to think differently about the punishment.I didn’t stick around for the the repercussions so I hope the process was balanced.

But it got me thinking about the topic of leadership and how to manage people through “light” and “heat” (think carrot & stick but I like my analogy better because we’re humans not animals).

As a leader you need to have both heat and light in your arsenal.  You cannot lead all people all of the time through light.

I always felt that the “disappointed dad” (or mum!) approach in business worked more effectively than yelling.  It is crushing to somebody when they hear messages like, “I would have expected you to have planned better for this meeting.  I put a lot of trust in you and I feel let down that you didn’t take this seriously enough to prepare.”  And then followed with “listen, I don’t want to see this happen again.  Let’s work on a plan to make sure it doesn’t.  But to be clear, if I see this again I’m going to have to consider consequences.”

This article originally appeared at Both Sides of the Table and is republished here with permission.

First, What is heat and light?

1. Highlight the error

Best to do this after the situation has happened, not when emotions are flared on both sides or you won't have a rational discussion or reflection.

Tell the person that you'd like them to reflect on what happened so you can debrief on the topic in 48 hours. Obviously if the situation is urgent you need to put the situation right before reflecting on what happened.

2. Discuss what you would have expected

I never understood why when managers did reviews they'd say what you did wrong without a clear explanation of what they think you should have done.

If you don't have an answer for what the right process or right behaviour would be then you're not going to be very effective in helping the person to be better next time.

3. Help them plan the new rules / process to ensure the mistake isn't repeated

5. Don't yell

Yelling yields resentment in the receiver and often makes the message unpalatable (I have a temper like anybody. I cannot say I've never yelled.

I got really angry with my assistant, for example, but only one time since we've worked together. I yelled. I had regret for weeks and we had to spend way more time working through the issue because I inflamed the situation than would have been the case if I would have kept my cool. I lost twice. I had to rebuild trust. It worked against me, not for me.)

6. Praise people publicly, but discipline people privately

If you do need to discipline people don't try to make a public spectacle of them to set an example. People won't learn -- they'll just think you're an arsehole.

People absorb their mistakes when they aren't embarrassed by them.

7. Don't rule in fear

For tips, don't miss...

NOW WATCH: Ideas videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.