We all make mistakes and screw up from time-to-time. As imperfect humans, we must accept that there will be inevitable errors. Instead of going into a panic mode after-the-fact, some focus should be spent on minimizing the opportunities for errors and developing a generic recovery strategy.
Preparing a generic and adaptable plan in advance allows the focus to be on the resolution and recovery processes instead of the distractions that arise from confusion, dodging blame, or a thinly veiled attempt at a C.Y.A. maneuver.
I tend not to make small or frequent blunders. I save all the goodwill I generate from being a consistent performer for the bigger mistakes that I make from time-to-time. Recovering from these errors provides me an opportunity to improve my leadership skills, learn valuable life lessons, and strengthen relationships through a sincere rebuilding effort.
When a serious misstep occurs, I follow a few key guidelines that reduce the damage while maximizing the chances for possible relationship gains.
Take Full Responsibility
- Admit and Apologize: This takes the gas out of anyone attacking or seeking to play up the failure through a nefarious blame game. Most people consider it unfair to attack someone who has taken full responsibility and given a deep personal apology.
- We must show authentic levels of remorse without giving excuses for the outcome or our conduct.
- Accept the consequences of our actions with grace and maturity
Establish Open Lines of Communications
- Complete an effective postmortem of the situation and your conduct. Bring in stakeholders and the concerned parties for private individual feedback sessions. Once complete, share the results. Open and honest communication is critical. Do not compound the problem by trying to keep things in the dark as it never works out in the end.
Correct the Mistake
- Some errors cannot be rectified, but many can be made improved. This may take some creative thinking, but search out how best to make it right. Remember, making it right must be from the perspective of the wronged party. What is “right and fair” to you, may feel like a further wrong from their perspective.
- If proper for the circumstance, compensate the affected parties.
Work to Reestablish Trust
- Seek outside help and perspective from mentors and an executive coach to help deepen your understanding of the impact on others and how to address the personal underlying issues.
- Create a mitigating plan that lowers the risk of a future occurrence. This even goes when the mistake is personal such a public confrontation. The plan should be shared as well. Keep people informed and close. It helps greatly with rebuilding trust.
- Be open to more feedback sessions as people may need to express their feeling multiple times before they are able to accept and forgive.
Even significant mistakes do not have to be the end of the world or a career. Obviously, this excludes things such as criminal conduct and huge moral lapses in judgment. Most times when people have a lapse in judgment or make a mistake, it is recoverable. How we choose to address these events and its impact on others is critical to our growth and long-term success.