We ask this question to every candidate we are vetting for our clients: “Tell me about a time when you made a big mistake.” Then we wait to see what they say.

True, confident leaders are not afraid to share a time when they made a mistake. Because the lesson they learned from the experience transcends the initial mistake. Pursuing better, seeking better is the key to strong leadership.

Here are eight (8) wrong approaches to mistakes that matter:

1. Mad Monkey approach: Jumping around making loud noises and pointing fingers. 

2. Chicken approach: Brooding. Let’s sit on these eggs until something ugly hatches. 

3. Possum approach: Let’s play dead. Maybe they’ll go away. 

4. Squirrel on Steroids approach: Trying harder and harder without adapting. 

5. Lounging Cat approach: It’s not that bad, someone will deal with it. 

6. Tiger approach: Attack. 

7. Weasel approach: Blame. 

8. Sloth approach: We’ll deal with this later. 

Tough conversations are never easy, but necessary. Sooner is better than later with mistakes that matter.

Before confronting mistakes:

1. ClarifyGet the facts. What really happened? 

2. Deal with emotion. Never confront while you’re mad, hurt, or pointing fingers. 

3. Plan the conversation. Write down main points. Confrontation almost never goes as planned but plan anyway. 

4. Determine desired behavioral results. What needs to be done?

5. How do you want people to feel when you’re done? Establish emotional outcomes. 

Attitude toward mistakes: 

Pursue better. Seek better, rather than perfect. Arrival is a myth. “You don’t have to go all the way to bright, just make things better.”

Doug Conant, author of TouchPoints.

Four words that change everything: “I Made a Mistake”

When discussing a leadership mistake and the first thing out of their mouth is, “I made a mistake.” Boom! Everything shifts.

Futures emerge after mistakes are owned, not until. Mistakes anchor life in the past until you say, “I messed up.” You look strong when you own mistakes.

Tip: Own it; never excuse it. 

Source: Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak