Responding to Mistakes

Everyone reacts differently to mistakes. Some have no fear and admit them. Some learn from them and move on. Others regurgitate the facts to place blame on others. Ignoring your mistakes can have a detrimental effect on client and/or co-worker relationships. It’s a sure-fire way to derail your career now and can prevent future opportunities. The next time you make a mistake, or your team fails to fulfill a project’s intended goals on-time or within budget, resist the temptation to find excuses and blame others or situations.

What worked? What didn’t work? Take time to objectively review the elements of the project. Start with objective (factual) items that did work. There will always be some. Then, focus on objective items that did not work. (Objective facts can usually be quantified.) Come up with resolutions with your team. Then, present these results to your boss for  approval to resolve and move forward.

Talk it out with boss or coach. Sometimes we make things mean more than they do. Other times we may be obtuse and not accept the seriousness of our words or actions. Feeling bad does not erase the impact of the mistake. But failing to resolve it and hoping it will go away can be detrimental to your future with the company.  It’s better to talk it out with someone who has more experience and will provide learning opportunities. Resist starting a gossip mill in an attempt to place the blame elsewhere. Not only will doing this limit your ability to positively impact the concerns, you will loose your credibility as a leader.  

Stop mind-reading. Ask! Do not assume you know what others think. Gather their feedback. Allow them to vent, appropriately, if warranted. Actively listen so they will share their experience of the impact on them, or their company. Apologize first, then explain your own actions and intentions. Offer an equitable resolution. Give them time to think about it and set a time to come back to the discussion. The key? Keep communication lines open. Don’t stop talking until the issue has been resolved to their satisfaction, whenever possible. Failure to resolve the mistake sadly means this type of issue will occur again and again, until the lesson has been learned.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

About Jeannette Seibly

Jeannette Seibly delivers “straight talk with immediate results” to business owners and executives of $1MM to $30MM enterprises, creating dynamic results. You may contact her at JLSeibly@SeibCo.com for an initial free consultation.


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