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11 Tips For Guiding Interns & New Hires Through Workplace Mistakes


11 Tips For Guiding Interns & New Hires Through Workplace Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, but these can feel especially devastating to an intern or new hire. What's one way you as a leader can help an intern or new hire navigate a mistake made at work to minimize any damage and any self-doubt or guilt they may be feeling as a result?

Here is what YEC members and business leaders had to say about guiding interns and new hires through workplace mistakes. 

Provide Constructive Feedback

As a leader, you must provide constructive feedback and support rather than focusing on blame. Emphasize the learning opportunity, encourage open communication, and offer guidance on how to rectify the situation. This approach helps minimize damage, boost their confidence, and foster a growth mindset.

Julia Rodgers, CEO, HelloPrenup

Discuss the Mistake Calmly

When an intern or new hire makes a mistake, it's vital to address it constructively. As a leader, start by reassuring them that errors are part of the learning process and not a reflection of their worth. Discuss the mistake calmly, focusing on understanding why it happened and how it can be avoided in the future. Provide specific, actionable feedback, and encourage reflection on the experience. Offer support and guidance, and allow them opportunities to rectify the error or apply their learnings to new tasks. This approach not only helps in minimizing damage but also fosters a supportive environment that promotes growth, learning, and confidence.

Adam Toren, Co-founder, Kidpreneurs.org

Share Your Own Experiences

I think it's really important to normalize the idea that everyone makes mistakes. Share your own experiences of making mistakes and the valuable lessons you learned from them. This helps in reducing the stigma associated with errors and encourages an open culture. When a mistake occurs, provide timely and constructive feedback rather than placing blame. Focus on the specific actions or decisions that led to the mistake and discuss how to address and rectify the situation. Emphasize that the goal is to learn and improve, not to assign blame. You can also offer practical solutions and share insights that can help them navigate similar situations in the future. This not only addresses the immediate issue but also provides valuable learning opportunities.

Rachel Beider, CEO, PRESS Modern Massage

Promote Communication During Onboarding

Leaders should be aware of the time it takes for new hires or interns to fully integrate into the organization. They should support them during the onboarding process and not let mistakes lower their confidence. While encouraging exploration and experimentation, leaders should also remind new hires of the possible impact their mistakes could have on the business. It is important for leaders to promote frequent communication between new hires and experienced team members to strengthen their understanding of tasks and processes before taking on responsibilities and minimizing the chances of new hires and interns making further mistakes.

Mohnish Chakravarti, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Rails

Open Communication Is Key

As a leader, I approach mistakes made by interns and new hires with a supportive and growth-focused mindset. Open communication is key; I encourage them to discuss mistakes without fear of judgment. I emphasize that errors are natural and valuable for personal development, drawing from my own experiences. We collaborate on solutions, empowering them to take proactive steps. Positive feedback reminds them of their strengths. Additionally, mentorship provides personalized guidance. These practices create an environment where individuals can learn, grow, and emerge from mistakes with resilience, understanding that setbacks are stepping stones to success.

Michelle Aran, Founder & CEO, Velvet Caviar

Look to Understand The Process

I find the best way to correct future mistakes is to understand the process by which they came about. Lay out the thought process that led to making the ultimate decision. Connect with the employee by posing questions that establish the best guard rails to avoid future issues and let them know that mistakes are inevitable but learning and growing from these mistakes ultimately defines an individual.

Joseph Sutherland, CEO, Trident Brokerage Services LLC

Keep Pushing Them To Do New Things

Failures are just as vital as your victories. We are lifelong learners who strive for mastery of our craft. The only way you can get better at your job and better at your craft is by pushing yourself to do new things. Ultimately, you will experience mistakes as part of that journey, and that is ok. It's part of the process. Everything I have accomplished that I am proud of started outside my comfort zone.  The power to overcome obstacles is experienced through mistakes you make by engaging in your own learning and teaching.  It is a thread that binds us is all. Being curious to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Ryan Stoner, Marketing Strategist & Brand Consultant

Help Them Think Long-Term

Sometimes, it helps to have a better understanding as to the mindset behind why the mistake was made. For example, if a new hire makes a mistake, have a chat with them and learn a bit more about how they executed the decision. Perhaps they thought it was the best decision at the time, or maybe it was simply a careless mistake. However, it’s important to help them understand the importance of thinking more long-term to help them avoid making quick decisions that could lead to a big mistake. Overall, by gaining a bit more insight on what happened, you can better advise them on how they can think more strategically in the future.

John Rampton, Founder, Calendar

Put The Mistake Into Context

This is one of the few times where its OK to be the one-upper. After 20 years in the digital marketing sphere, I've seen every blunder, every technology fail, every accidental reply-all with clients on the thread. You name it? I've seen it. So when the new kid screws up, I remind them that it happens to all of us and that its a great opportunity for some early learning. I also put it into context. Most mistakes in business (unless your business is medicine) are not life or death. Remember that.

Dan Golden, Co-Founder, BFO (Be Found Online)

Commend Them On Their Transparency

First and foremost, I would commend them on their transparency and accountability as the greatest mistake that can be made is not owning up to it. Then, I would explain that making a mistake is an opportunity for growth. I would ask the new hire if their actions were based on some sort of fear, such as making a quota and I would advise them to focus on loving what they do. As “Love Not Fear” is one of my core values, personally and professionally, I would share the concept that we can choose to act based on love and not fear: the two primary emotions that we function with. I would ask them to choose to approach what they do with love and to embrace a growth mindset and therefore use the opportunity to problem-solve and seek solutions to prevent an error from occurring again.

David Henzel, CEO, Love not Fear

Properly Set Expectations During Training

We tell all our hires throughout the training process that we know they are going to make mistakes--and that some of those mistakes will even be big ones. Being prepared to handle those mistakes is our job as management, and we want them to keep that in mind. And we literally say to them "No one has ever gotten fired in the history of our company for taking a risk or making a mistake. However, people have gotten fired for doing nothing."

Vanessa Nornberg, CEO, Metal Mafia

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