Success

Retired Navy SEAL: Here's what to do if you screw up at work

VIDEO1:2301:23
Retired Navy SEAL: Here's how strong leaders deal with mistakes

If you miss a deadline, upset a client or make any sort of error at work, chances are you can recover. 

The first step to take, says retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, is to "own the mistake."

Your instinct may be to avoid the situation, he adds, but doing so will only put you in a tougher position in the long run: "If you try and hide that mistake from your boss, believe me: When they find out about it, they're going to be infinitely more angry that you didn't just come clean and get that situation resolved."

The sooner you apologize and take responsibility, the better. You also want to be prepared to tell your boss how you're solving the problem and what you plan to do in the future to prevent it from happening again, Willink, who is now an author and leadership coach, tells CNBC Make It.

Jocko Willink, retired U.S Navy SEAL.
Jocko Willink

The worst thing you can do after making a mistake is blame your coworkers or the circumstances. Think about it from the perspective of your boss, says Willink. "Which person would you rather have working for you: The person that's blaming everyone else, or the person that's taking ownership of the problem?

"The answer is perfectly clear. Everybody knows it. Yet, when it comes to those situations, we allow our ego to start playing into that game and we don't want to tell the boss that it was our fault, so we blame everyone else. We end up looking horrible."

Avoidance doesn't just leave a bad impression, either. If you don't address your error, "the solutions to the problems don't come," he says. "So, take ownership of the problem. Report that you made a mistake, how you're going to fix the mistake and how you're going to prevent that mistake from happening in the future."

Take ownership of the problem. Report that you made a mistake, how you're going to fix the mistake and how you're going to prevent that mistake from happening in the future.
Jocko Willink
leadership coach, retired Navy SEAL

If you're the leader of the team and an employee approaches you about a mistake they've made, remember you're in this together: "You don't want to go in there and attack them," says Willink.

"Instead of saying, 'This is your fault and I'm in here to discipline you for your mistake,'" he suggests opening up a productive conversation by saying: "Look, we didn't do well with this project. I think there are some things I could have done better to support you. What do you think I could have given you for support that would have made your job easier?"

By turning the critique into a conversation you'll be able to more quickly address the problem, he says, and move on.

Don't miss: Ex-Navy SEAL commander: What to do when coworkers aren't pulling their weight

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

VIDEO1:3601:36
Ex-Navy SEAL: Here's what to do when someone tells you 'no'
make it

Stay in the loop

Sign Up

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us

CNBC.COM