Friday, July 18, 2014

Made a mistake? Say sorry.

I hate to make mistakes.  But I am not perfect (I know, surprising news). But in some ways, it is what you do after you’ve goofed that is the true learning experience.

I remember totally blowing it with a sponsor and accidentally leaving her off a thank-you ad.  I was mortified. I couldn’t sleep and had this knot in my stomach.  How could that have happened?  Naturally I immediately apologized and rectified the situation, as much as I could and ran a second ad that thanked her company.  But the damage was done and for weeks, I was constantly berating myself for making the mistake in the first place. 

Saying you are sorry straight away and doing something to rectifiy or compensate someone goes a long way to making the mistake go away.  It is when, as the customer, that your concerns are ignored, or worse,  dismissed or ridiculed, that the problem escalates.  All any of us want is to have our feelings heard and validated, and even if you don’t agree, my advise is to listen, say sorry and take some action.

Now you can go overboard.  I always remember a story that one of our members would share about her days as a flight attendant, when she mistook a lacy sleeve to belong to a woman, and without really looking quickly asked “her” if she’d like a paper? 

You can imagine her horror when, on looking up, she discovered it was a rather famous skater.  She then proceeded at every turn to apologize, and kept up a stream of apologies for the whole flight.  Did this rectify the situation?  No.  In fact, she made it worse.  So her conclusion was that you say sorry, and move on. 

Making a mistake is a humbling experience, especially if there is an audience to witness what has happened.   No one likes to look foolish but people’s view of you can dramatically change depending on how you react.  When you work with integrity and respect, you can in fact turn a mistake into a redeeming situation, where observers note and admire how you handled a difficult situation.  Or you can totally blow it, hope it will just go away and in the end, make it worse.

Much of my reputation at Company of Women is tied up in the high quality speakers I bring in.  So you can imagine my horror when with a full house, we had a speaker who well… let’s just say she shouldn’t give up her day job, and perhaps seek counselling. 

I was horrified as the evening progressed and I also couldn’t get her to stop talking.  I had to physically go on stage and take the microphone from her.

Now we had a large number of women in the audience for whom this was their first experience with Company of Women.  So what did I do?  I sent out an email first thing the next morning, apologizing and assuring people that “normal service will resume” and offered a discount for a future event. That email earned me lots of brownie points and instead of losing participants, I went up in their estimation.

Mistakes happen.  Often when we have too much on our plate, get distracted or are just plain tired.  It is what you learn from them and what you do afterwards that can turn a bad situation into a positive one. And beating yourself up about it, leaves you stuck.  So learn, let go and move on.

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