The disciples should have had a better understanding than they demonstrated in this situation. Jesus corrected them, but He did it expressly so they would have improved understanding in the future. Rather than simply telling them what they should have already understood, He used pointed questions to get their attention and direct them to what they were missing. Engaging them in this manner got their attention and made it more likely they would retain the necessary lesson.

Live It

  • Recognize the importance of mind-sets and how thinking impacts action.
  • Address incorrect thoughts with the same passion as incorrect actions.
  • Evaluate the level of understanding that should be expected.
  • If the person is relatively new to the responsibilities, point out the differences between correct and incorrect thinking.
  • If the person is growing in knowledge and ability, use open questions (for example, beginning with "what if" and "when") to direct the person's thinking toward areas of needed change.
  • If the person has had adequate time and support to understand, ask pointed questions to get attention and indicate areas needing correction.
  • Focus on the person's long-term learning and overall success as your primary goals.

See It

One army unit was conducting a "paper exercise"—which involves detailed plans but no actual troops in the field. As each group submitted their plans, one of the headquarters leaders discovered a plan destined for failure. He started to alert the group to their error, but the colonel stopped him. "We'll shoot their helicopters down, and they will learn. Let them make this mistake when it doesn't cost any lives." The other leader had an incorrect mind-set about the paper exercises and what they were designed to do. Ensuring he understood the purpose of these exercises and handled them correctly would be vital to the overall effectiveness, and safety, of the unit in live combat.

Consider the Impact of a Public Correction

This New Testament passage comes from a letter Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy. In it, Paul gives the young man instructions for church leadership.

Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.—1 Timothy 5:20

In general, leaders should talk to people one-on-one to discuss performance shortfalls. However, this passage refers to the motivational value of "learning another's lesson." If a problem is out in the open, it may be appropriate to correct publicly to ensure others are warned from the same path. If intentions were good and the person is noticeably aware of their shortfall, a private or mild open correction may be sufficient. Be sure to think beyond the immediate needs to the resulting impact on others before deciding the best course of action.

Live It

  • Realize that people generally know the performance of others.
  • Evaluate whether the performance failure was due to inexperience, honest mistakes, or if the person knew better and is capable of more.
  • Choose the best way to address the situation, balancing the needs to correct the individual and send a clear message about your expectations.
  • Give a private, mild correction if the person is aware and sorry for his or her failure.
  • Give a private correction followed by a broader message about your expectations if others may be inclined to make the same mistake.
  • Give an open correction if the failure was open and serious.

See It

One organization found itself in the awkward place of having to try again to implement changes to its IT processes and procedures. Several previous attempts had failed, yet the improvements were necessary. When the new attempt was announced, many openly scoffed, but most people simply ignored the message. To get attention, the project team implemented an open measurement system. The key requirements were identified along with expected standards and timing for completion. Project members met regularly with leaders of the organization to go over their group's performance against expectations, and all were repeatedly alerted that results would be openly published in an upcoming meeting. The meeting came and went, and the inadequate performance of several groups was known to all—as was the superior performance of others. By the next meeting, all results were at or above expectations, and soon the effort was well on its way to success.