Mistakes Happen – How You Deal With Those Mistakes Makes the Difference
Yes, mistakes happen in our business and personal lives; none of us is perfect. How we respond when those mistakes happen, however, can determine how quickly we recover, learn and move on from those mistakes. Assessing how the mistake was made will help us avoid a similar mistake in the future; and if we understand how to work through the mistake cleanup process, any problems caused by the mistake can be minimized.
I think mistakes fall into two categories:
1. Mistakes made due to inexperience. These mistakes sometimes can’t be avoided. People can make mistakes because they lack critical knowledge to make the right decision. Once the mistake is made make sure to learn from it. Gain additional knowledge so that you’re prepared the next time. The only thing worse than making a mistake is making the same mistake twice.
2. Mistakes made due to lack of focus. These mistakes are more difficult to assess. These are mistakes are normally made by a seasoned experienced person. The important step to take is to look at the mistake and positively review how it happened. The goal here is to understand how the mistake occurred:
a. Were you moving too quickly?
b. Were you distracted?
c. Did you not look at all the facts?
d. Were you too self assured?
e. Did you cut corners?
Take a look at what caused the mistake and then take a moment to figure out what can be done to change current patterns or behavior so it doesn’t happen again. If need be, write down the mistake made and the corrective steps you plan on taking in the future to avoid similar mistakes.
Once you’ve determined how the mistake occurred, then you need to begin cleanup mode.
1. Understand how people respond to and handle mistakes. This prepares you for working with others when mistakes are made. I categorize people into three basic groups, when it comes to how people handle mistakes. But keep in mind that these are very broad groups. Each person has their own age, educational, generational, and personal life experience differences that affect how they deal with mistakes. The basic groups are:
a. Extroverts. They want to get everything out in the open. They will talk about the problem to try to get it resolved. While talking it through they may not initially have all of the facts to resolve the problem. For them discussion is all part of the resolution process.
b. Analytical people. They tend to work through in their mind the cleanup process. They try to come up with a solution before presenting their concerns. Will wait until they have all facts and possible solutions before communicating to others about the existence of a mistake.
c. Introverts. They may keep it bottled up and not tell others hoping it will go away. Fear can drive them to not face and take the steps necessary to remedy the mistake. Can be concerned about being blamed or criticized for the mistake.
2. Take the proper cleanup steps to deal with a mistake:
a. Don’t Procrastinate. Deal with the mistake immediately. The longer you take to respond the greater the possibility of more harm.
b. Gather all the facts. Make sure you get all the facts. Understand the scope of the mistake and what exactly happened.
c. Don’t be ruled by fear of criticism or blame. No one likes to be blamed or criticized. When mistakes happen, blame and criticism should be removed from the cleanup process. Don’t allow the potential for blame or criticism to lead you to inaction.
d. After you have gathered all the facts put together a plan of action to remedy the mistake. The plan should include communicating to people that need to know, that the mistake has occurred and how it is being corrected.. Share the mistake and possible solutions with at least one other trusted coworker or friend. This provides you with an advice outlet and covers you if additional problems arise.
3. Complete the mistake cleanup process in a positive manner. Properly handling a mistake is as important as avoiding the mistake the next time around. Look closely at how you and those around you deal with mistakes. Different types of people handle the mistake cleanup process in different ways. Think about the best way to handle the cleanup process based on the people that are involved. Review the process you used and note whether it worked well and if there are any changes that should be made in the process the next time around.
Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t create a bigger mistake by thinking that you’re the only one to make them. Take proactive steps to clean up the mistake in a positive timely manner. Learn from your mistakes and then move on.