The Joy of Making Mistakes
One of my clients who is an executive in a medium-sized and growing company called me to tell me he really did it this time. He screwed up. He missed a deadline that was going to cost his company tens of thousands of dollars. My response was probably not what he was expecting, nor what I think he wanted to hear. I simply said, "So? What are you going to do about it now?"
It happens even to the best of us. We don't get the client. We don't make the sale. We don't get what we think we deserve. The bottom line is you can't change the past so what are you going to do about it now.
I thought the phone might have gone dead because my client was quiet. After a few moments, he sighed and asked me what I thought he should do. He forgot that good coaches don't give advice; they make their clients find it themselves. So I asked every coach's favorite question, "What do you think you should do?" (I think that was my supervisor's favorite question when I worked for Customs, as well.)
My client said, "I need to apologize, accept responsibility and be willing to deal with whatever comes next." Ding-Ding-Ding -- Johnny, we have a winner! This man is a genius. If there were three tips to recovering after making the biggest mistakes in our lives, this would be the magic formula.
1. Apologize -- While we'd all like to think we're perfect, we're not. Apologizing is not the same as making an excuse. Lectures are not apologies. Neither is the phrase "I'm sorry" followed by the word "but..." or letting the reciever know that he/she is not perfect, either. Apologizing is letting someone know you regret the choice you made and hope to have to have a chance to do better in the future. A true apology is sincere and shows concern for the receiver. Because you genuinely care, you feel disappointed in yourself for letting him/her down. If the person you let down is yourself, you still need to apologize.
2. Accepting responsibility -- Admit it. When you own your mistake take your lumps, you can find the joy in making the mistake. No doubt you've experienced both great success and great failure in life. This is just another opportunity to get better.
3. Be willing to deal with the consequences -- Choose to learn from your mis-steps. Spend time analyzing what went wrong and what you can do to ensure it never happens again while understanding that there is always a price to pay for making the mistake in the first place. No excuses allowed.
Alexander Pope wrote, "To err is human; to forgive divine." Good leaders understand that errors, mistakes, and mis-steps are part of business. Richard Branson, English entrepreneur worth over 7 billion, has given some of his employees a second chance even after stealing from him. My first supervisor told me that there was nothing that I did that couldn't be fixed, other than injuring someone on the job. By allowing others to find the joy in making mistakes, leaders open the door for characteristics such as responsibility and accountantability to enter -- two components in a healthy, growing, and prosperous organization.
How do you handle yourself when you make mistakes? When others make mistakes?