If you lead a team of one or 1,000, if you lead a team of all-paid or all-volunteer staff, if you lead a team of pastors or pastry chefs, you need to let ’em own it.
Your team will make mistakes. They will have an error. They will fall flat on their face or trip over protocol or stumble over the systems. They’ll miss the budget, miss the meeting, or miss a goal. And when that happens, you need to let them feel the weight of owning their mistake.
Here’s what I mean: if a team member has a job to do and doesn’t do it according to your standard, you shouldn’t go back and do the job for them. You walk beside them, help them to see where they fell short, and let them own the fix.
A couple of years ago I was visiting a church in California whose coffee and refreshment area looked like something out of a Ritz Carlton Sunday brunch. The serving tables were pristine. The coffee and food were constantly topped off. It screamed excellence to every guest who walked through the door.
This team was made up of all volunteers, but it was also led each week by a volunteer. I pulled that guy to the side and said, “What’s your secret? How do you ensure this standard every single week?”
He smiled, reached into a box that was hidden under one of the tablecloths, and pulled out an 8 x 10 laminated photo of an already-set-up table. “This is standard,” he said. “This is the blueprint my team goes by every single week. And if it’s not set up according to this blueprint…if one single Splenda packet is in the wrong place…I track down the set up team and they do it again.”
Now that may sound harsh to you (Having a volunteer re-do a job? Scandalous!), but consider the flip side: what if you were the one to correct every mistake or right every wrong or take an “If it’s gonna be done right, I’ve gotta do it” attitude? You’d never sit down and volunteers would never step up.
As a leader, you have the responsibility to show your team grace, but you also have the right to ask them to meet a standard. Do it as a servant leader. Do it in a way that empowers, not embarrasses. But at the end of the day, let ’em own it.