Managers make mistakes too!

September 24, 2018

In her latest blog, Laura explains why it’s okay for managers to make mistakes and how they can actually be a good thing!

By Laura Hayden

Hands up if you’re a manager and you feel an underlying expectation to be perfect all the time because you set the example for your direct reports and they rely on you for support and assistance?

Yes, the buck stops with you and you need to reinforce performance and conduct standards and abide by both the company rules and the expectations that you set, but this doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes! You’re human, you can’t get it right all the time, it’s just not possible! However, we find ourselves repeating the same message we were told throughout childhood to those reporting to us, i.e. “you learn from your mistakes”, forgetting to take our own advice and instead beating ourselves up for making the mistake in the first place.

As managers, we need to take this advice one step further, we don’t necessarily learn from the mistake alone, as explained in this quote:

“Managers learn from the meaning they give to experience, not from the experience itself, and they give meaning to experience by reflecting.”

(Sievert & Daudelin, 1999)

Because every day is a school day, to internalise learning opportunities for growth and development, managers should regularly consciously and critically review situations to enable them to understand why certain situations played out as they did and to learn from them.

It’s important to note that true reflection isn’t limited to the experience alone. It requires self-awareness, honesty and the ability to take responsibility of the situation. It involves a full evaluation including assessing the root cause, underlying beliefs, values and assumptions and considering how these tendencies played out not only in this situation, but how they might play out in different future scenarios. It’s about seeking to apply what has been learnt and committing to change your behaviour and approach accordingly.

The theory behind this is ‘double loop learning’, as opposed to ‘single loop’. Unlike single loop learning, which focuses on what happened and how changes can be made to the strategies and techniques in place (i.e. fixing the problem), double loop learning is about understanding why the problem exists in the first place.

Double loop learners make great leaders, so why not try to encourage yourself to apply this principle in practice? Try asking yourself:

  • Why did I follow that process in the first place?
  • What made me think that would work?
  • Have I been biased or limited in my approach?
  • When have I experienced similar results?
  • What has this shown me about myself?


So to recap: being a manager doesn’t mean you’re superhuman! If you can be open about your experiences and what you’ve learnt from them, this encourages a reflective culture within the team and shows that you’re open to feedback – all of which are great leadership traits!

If you’d like to learn more about what makes a great manager, just get in touch with our team of superheroes.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

Why not join our mailing list...




  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.