How do you react to your teams’ mistakes? 

I heard a story in church years ago about a couple who had been married for over fifty years. When asked how in the world they stayed together despite each other’s faults, habits, and hang-ups, their response was amazing. It illustrates grace in action, and I’ll share their response here. 

The husband responded to the question about how they stayed married and in love for so long with the following: 

“For everything the other person does with which you may not agree on the surface, simply come up with the most generous explanation for what they’ve said, what they’ve done, or what they haven’t done, accept it as the reality of the situation, and move on.” 

People make mistakes. They will be inaccurate, less than productive, inefficient, and sometimes they’ll even be mean. It’s easy to take it personally, especially after all you’ve done and continue to do, setting out to make those same people feel welcome and comfortable.  

What if they’re inaccurate because they weren’t trained properly?  What if they’re less than productive because they’ve lost all confidence in themselves and they’re looking for guidance and inspiration from you?  What if they’re inefficient because they’ve never had a mentor or teacher show them how to structure their process?  What if they’re being mean to you or their peers because they’re scared to death about something terrible happening at home? 

Now, think about how important they’ll feel when you seek to understand, as well as accept some responsibility for tending to their needs. Perhaps they’ve had other bosses or past leaders who were always too busy. Maybe they have trust issues because they’ve never felt this type of acceptance and love, let alone leadership.  

You can be the leader they’ve never had before, but whom they’ve always needed to get them over the hump. Talking down to them and kicking them while they’re down only pushes them further away. Come up with the most generous explanation for their actions or lack thereof. Step up and take personal responsibility to do whatever you can to help them. 

This kind of grace makes you a leader worth following.