Are you stupid or something?
This is the thought process behind the reactions from managers more often than the words are actually spoken. Even if it were true, does that thought process help you improve? Does it help them? No, it just deteriorates the situation. Of course Forrest Gump had the ultimate response: “Stupid is as stupid does.” But I don’t recommend trying that.
Everyone makes mistakes. Some of those mistakes look pretty stupid, like the sign posted in the picture above. Some of us are fortunately enough to have never, ever, ever made a stupid mistake – or at least that’s what we tell people. But whether someone is an occasional member of the club, or the founder, there are more productive ways to response. Instead of focusing on the “who” of the problem, let’s focus on the “why” of the problem.
One organization I recently visited has turned the A3 into what they were calling a Counseling A3. The A3 process is nothing more than a structured method for solving problems. For more on the A3 process, check out some of my Leading Lean columns from this year, including June through October which you can find here. The Counseling A3 had basically the same format but it’s purpose was when there was a problem where an employee committed an error. Instead of blaming the individual, they help the individual think through the error and figure out how to fix it. It goes from blame to process improvement and learning. Of course, it’s not perfect. The supervisor still has to make the decision to use the process. But instead of just asking the employee to try to not be stupid next time, they can actually help them improve their work practices.
Everyone makes stupid mistakes. Some people get more than their fair share. As a manager, how do you react? Do you make the problem worse, or help people improve their work? What do you do to ensure the right habits? I’d love to hear in the comments below.
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