How to manage a team member when they failed on a project/task


So, one of your workers blows a huge presentation in front of your biggest client. All you can think about is how much time, money and schmoozing this is going to cost you to correct. Embarrassment and stress to you and your organization ensues.

Now what?

It’s time to stock up on empathy and open your mind.



Employees join companies, but they Quit managers, after what they consider demoralizing or unfair displays of blame and shame.

Read that again.

Anything so overtly negative in terms of feedback is like a figurative punch to the brain. We immediately go into protective mode because our brain feels threatened, which then leads to being defensive and feeling shame. So that’s a no.



Don’t jump to conclusions. Managers need to cast a wide-open net to begin a conversation of understanding of how things went wrong. The right question to ask is 'I am curious about what we could have done differently to achieve a better outcome?' 

Do your research. So many factors could have contributed to things going wrong, so many intangibles come into play when executing a project or a task.  Ask: 'If we did this project again, what could we do differently to change the outcome?' 'How could I have supported you and your team better?'" This way you engage everyone to learn and grow rather than recoil and shut down. That alone can change what the employee will do after the meeting. Instead updating their resume, they will spend their time focused on what they could have done differently since they have to answer that question the next day. Shift that mindset

Don't wait for a buildup. Feedback should be given willingly and often.  Correct the small stuff, before they lead to the big stuff. Same for recognition, do it often and do it loud. Research shows that 80% of the recognition employees receive is negative, which has a depressing impact on employee engagement. Let’s change things up here.

Mind your language. Start your conversation by offering praise and appreciation. Say something positive about the employee that relates to performance, behavior or attitude. This appreciation needs to stand on its own, you can't insert a 'but' or a 'however' because that quickly negates the positive comment.

Be curious. Research shows us that managers should lead with curiosity. For example, 'I'm confused, help me understand why' can be remarkably effective at getting underneath a person's defenses. Some managers might consider this kind of an approach a sign of weakness, when in fact data has shown that people typically lean in when someone expresses vulnerability.

Another reason to begin with curiosity is that it creates a two-way conversation between manager and team member. So you’re more on an equal playing field. Questions encourage learning and growth; criticism triggers a combination of defensiveness, dejection, resistance and antipathy.

Be strong. Be positive but still clear on consequences.  

This is your team, and your one of their peers. Work towards building a safe work space with strong work ethic and trust, where your guidance and feedback are valued

You don’t need to figure it out on your own.

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