Updated: Sep 7
Would you like to surround yourself with a team of doers and innovative people? Do you want your clients to feel they can truly trust you?
Actually, the way you deal with mistakes helps you achieve both. Allowing
your team to go off the beaten path will allow and encourage them to take initiative. And managing the situation when, perhaps, things go a little wrong, is essential for your team and customers alike to build trust in you and your business.
In my first blog on Smallville, I admitted an embarrassing mistake that I made in the first print edition of my book, and described how I decided not to beat myself up for it. Sometimes, mistakes are not just embarrassing – they might even have widespread negative implications. If disaster (minor or otherwise) strikes, below are my recommended 9 As of Approaching Mistakes.
1. ASSESS THE DAMAGE
Ask yourself what actually happened and what the immediate implications are – including what potential risk the mistake has created. Ask yourself the detailed why, when, where, and how (if there’s a fire, don’t waste time on this now –just extinguish those flames).
Start by admitting to yourself that you’re at least partially – if not fully – responsible for the mistake. How often do we try to talk ourselves into believing that what happened was really all someone else’s fault?
3. ADDRESS EMOTIONS
It’s easier to apologise if you’re in control of your emotions. How do you control your emotions? Taking ten deep tummy breaths can help.
4. ADMIT THE MISTAKE OPENLY
Once you have your emotions under better control, honestly acknowledge the mistake. Remember BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill? That’s how you don’t want to do it.
BP’s CEO tried to cover up the scope of the disaster, talking about “relatively tiny” damage in comparison with the “very big ocean” that was likely to have a “very modest impact”. In reality, it was the largest accidental marine oil spill in history – and because of the CEO’s unimpressive response, it was a huge PR disaster on top of the immense environmental disaster.
5. APOLOGISE SINCERELY AND IN CLEAR TERMS
When you admit your mistake, make sure you (sincerely) reflect the second ‘A’ – Acknowledging your responsibility – and show remorse for whatever went wrong. Start with a simple “I’m sorry” and then be clear about exactly what it is you’re sorry for.
6. AMEND THE MISTAKE – TAKE ACTION
Do this as quickly as possible, and to the best of your ability. If you can’t actually fix the mistake yourself before you own up to it, offer an action plan for making it right when you deliver your apology. Ideally add, “I’ll arrange to have the correct shipment delivered to you first thing tomorrow morning.”
7. ANALYSE WHY THINGS WENT WRONG
And once you’re clear on this, you might want to develop a plan to avoid it ever happening again. Learn from your mistake.
Avoid over-engineering a solution, though. Throughout my career, I’ve seen too many complicated processes that were initially installed to prevent mistakes.
By having several employees check and double-check, it actually increases the likelihood of more mistakes happening. You’re distributing responsibility on more shoulders, rather than having one person who feels fully responsible and accountable.
8. AMPLIFY YOUR TRUST
The trust that your clients have placed in you might be fragile after that blunder. You can make it up by fixing it fast – or how about by offering a discount, or a gift?
9. ACCEPT THAT THERE MIGHT BE REPERCUSSIONS
The above tips will help you re-build trust. They will not, however, provide full protection from the consequences of your mistake. Just deal with the repercussions.
Finally, hold your team responsible for their actions, but remember that you’re Accountable for everything that happens in your company. You’re the boss and the buck stops with you. If you accept accountability, it will help you create a great team of doers, who are confident in trying out new things.