You’re going to make mistakes, so make mistakes right and make them work for you. A correctly handled mistake can actually build relationships.
We live in a demanding world that seems to be intolerant of mistakes. So much so, that in most companies, employees hide their mistakes for fear of chastisement, or worse. They rush to correct them and then cover them up and act like they never happened. We blame misguided company culture for that. In their well-meaning attempt to appear “perfect,” people miss out on one of the greatest opportunities to improve their business and their relationships: making mistakes! But how do you make mistakes right?
1. Cop to it.
End the drama; short circuit the exacerbation of the problem. Don’t let it go to a secondary issue of loss of credibility.
2. Analyze it.
Really find out how it happened. Look at it from every angle. What factors lead to the mistake?
3. Write it Down.
Discover just how it happened and, more importantly, identify every document that needs to be written, changed or updated so that the mistake won’t happen again—not just by you, but by anyone else. The documents may include everything from a sign to a label, from a policy to a procedure, from a checklist to a sign off sheet, or even a new or improved clause in a contract.
4. Apologize to the injured party.
Don’t just tell them you are sorry—tell them it won’t happen again and why. Show them the documents that will be changed in the future to demonstrate that you are committed to preventing it from happening again.
5. Celebrate your mistakes.
…and the mistakes of your people. Let them know that the company has improved forever because “Mary” made a mistake, discovered why and wrote new documents that will prevent it from ever happening again. Congratulate her on what she did for the company. All your people will get the message that mistakes happen, but they are also golden opportunities to improve the company. And, the company appreciates it. They will be more likely to come forward with their own mistakes and solutions.
6. Aim, don’t blame.
Aim at the cause. Discover what you can do to clean up your own backyard when a mistake is someone else’s “fault.” Blaming the other guy doesn’t help solve the matter. What can you do in your space to help them have better information sooner so the mistake is less likely to happen again?
7. Build relationships.
It’s not how good you are when you are good, it’s how good you are when your bad—that makes the lasting impression. People want to work with people who have integrity. They know everyone makes mistakes, whether they find out about it or not. What they want to know, is how you handle them. They will remember you for how you handled your last mistake.
“Oops, my bad” can be a good thing after all!
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are the founders of Barefoot Wine and authors of the bestseller, The Barefoot Spirit, How Hardship, Hustle and Heart built America’s #1 Wine Brand. When Michael and Bonnie started Barefoot Wines in their laundry room in 1986, they had no idea what they were doing. But they made up for that with creativity, resourcefulness, and grit. By the time they sold the brand to EJ Gallo and left the wine business they had achieved global distribution and more than $20 million in annual sales.