Oops, I did it again…how to turn your mistakes into a great thing for you and  your organization.

Oops, I did it again…how to turn your mistakes into a great thing for you and your organization.

As a child the one thing I never wanted to do was disappoint anyone. I was the kid who only required a look from Mama to let me know I needed to stop what I was doing and make a different choice. I, like many people, felt that making a mistake was a bad thing, then a wonderful thing happened, I messed up. Not a small oops but what I thought was a catastrophic, world ending, no one will ever speak to me again mistake and you know what happened…very little. The world still spun around, my family still loved me and my career (at that time as a student) continued.

Fast forward a few years and I still hate to make a mistake but I have completely changed my frame of thinking. I learned one truth…If no one dies it can be fixed.   Fixing doesn’t mean un-doing, forgetting it ever happened or  even mean that you won’t have to deal with the consequences of making a mistake but it does mean we are typically able to recover (and often move ahead) from a mistake. These three steps can help you turn a mistake into an opportunity and recover with grace, style and your positive reputation intact.

1.     Be honest – There is a natural tendency to want to cover up mistakes but what message does that send your supervisors, co-workers and customers?  That gives them license to question both your ability and integrity. On the flip side, when you own up to the mistake as soon as possible you show that not only did you catch the problem before they had a chance to bring it to your attention but you were honest enough to let them know so it didn’t cause any further harm. People don’t expect perfection but they do expect accountability.

I once sent an email to a potential employer and I wrote, “My goals is…” Unfortunately, like so many others, I seem to be a better proofreader after I hit send on an email. I was horrified but needed to recover. I sent a follow up email that said, “My apologies to the readers and my 2nd grade grammar teacher. An extra S just jumped on the page and insisted on joining the party…” There was a chance they would have read that sentence and not noticed my mistake but that was a chance I wasn’t willing to take. By owning up to it I had a chance to show I did in fact have a grasp of English and it made them laugh. More importantly they knew that I was a person who took responsibilities for my actions. Negative into positive!

2.     Offer Solution – Saying you made a mistake is step 1 but correcting it is an even bigger step. As soon as you realize a mistake has been made think of a way to minimize its affect.  Offer to stay late to redo the project. Send a revised report to your boss. Draft an apology to your customer offering to fix the problem and an additional token of your company’s appreciation. Making a mistake can be bad but pawning your mistake off on someone else to fix is infinitely worse! Noticing a mistake before someone else does and coming up with a great solution proves that you are resourceful, attentive and diligent. Negative to positive!

3.     Make regular deposits into your reputation account – People forgive people that have proven themselves to be competent and capable. People remember the good over the bad when they believe that person always makes a genuine effort to do the best they can. The key to being “allowed” to make a mistake is to do it as infrequently as possible. Innovation and creativity are always great but when you prove to your employer and customers that you know when to take risks and when to play it safe they will trust your instincts and forgive your mis-steps.

Mistakes happen, they always have and always will. A big part of business (and life) is taking limited information and making our best-informed decision. Ideally, we would always get it right the first time but in reality we won’t, so having a recovery plan is essential. Don’t be afraid to act out of fear of making a mistake and don’t let a mistake define you or your career! Remember, there are very few mistakes that can’t be covered and corrected by paint, cheese or humor! Share some of your professional mistakes and recoveries with us. What did you learn and how did you make a potentially negative situation positive?

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Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting works with organizations and individuals to help them on their quest towards professional excellence.  If you’re facing significant change, unprecedented growth or stagnant results Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting will help by providing customized tools to solve problems, increase employee engagement, improve leadership capabilities and increase profits. As a Speaker, Trainer and Coach Christy will provide diversity of thought, enhanced communication, improved leadership and a maximized corporate culture.  CPH Consulting will help grow your business!

She’s just like me so she must be perfect…the dangers or hiring your intellectual twin.

She’s just like me so she must be perfect…the dangers or hiring your intellectual twin.

Human beings tend to think we are pretty smart. Thankfully, we are typically correct. However, our ability to be capable, confident, high performers sometimes leads us to believe that anyone who thinks, acts or works differently may not be up to par. Who would want to work with someone who isn’t equally intelligent?

How can that attitude play out in the work place and when forming strong, cohesive teams? This story illustrates what I learned about diverse work styles and strengths. It completely changed my approach to team building, and maybe it will affect you similarly.

After weeks of planning, anticipating and strategizing, the time for our inaugural leadership conference had finally arrived. My assistant and I  had great speakers, wonderful activities and engaging presentations. She and I enjoyed great communication, shared vision and honest feedback. Some would say our working relationship was the stuff dreams were made of. We were sure our connection would help make our event a tremendous success.

My assistant was my first hire as a department head. I poured through resumes, labored through interviews and selected the person I thought would be a great fit to work with me. We were from the same town, went to some of the same schools and she saw many things the same way I did. She was, in fact, a lot like me. I soon found out she was probably too much like me.

As we reviewed the final details for the conference, neither of us could find the conference room booking information. We went through endless pieces of paper. We found speaker bios, conference mission and goal statements and hotel information, but no conference room booking details. We reached out to our hotel contact who said, “We don’t have a meeting room reserved for you. No one booked it.”

There we sat, with 25 conference attendees arriving in 4 hours and we didn’t have a meeting room for our two-day session. The hotel representative forwarded the email she sent asking that we confirm the room reservation and neither of us responded. In the midst of our big-picture thinking, we missed this one detail that proved to be a major hurdle. It didn’t matter what speaker or activity we booked, because we didn’t have a place for them to present.

As smart and capable as we thought we were, neither of us was great with details. We were wonderful big-picture, strategic thinkers, but didn’t excel at the day-to-day activities required to make the big picture a reality. I was self-aware regarding my strengths and opportunities, but I failed to hire a person who excelled in the skills I lacked. I was so concerned with getting along with my assistant, I ignored the most important part of building a team. A strong team must have members with diverse talents and work styles.

I learned people managers and team builders should strive to avoid hiring mocking birds that will only repeat what they do and say. You don’t want a mirror or “amen corner” of people who will tell you every idea you have (even the really bad ones) are great. Ideally, you’ll create a team full of different opinions, backgrounds, work styles and, most importantly, strengths! You want a team that is stronger than any individual member to work together to accomplish a mission.

The goal of a team isn’t to think and act alike, but to think and act together. If you are a strong thinker, hire a strong do-er. If you are a quiet person, hire someone who can be the question asker and departmental spokesperson. It may not make every day easy, but it will improve your end result.

The most successful team members recognize value in different approaches and different ideas. When it comes to teams, the old saying, “Different is good,” truly applies.

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Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting works with organizations and individuals to help them on their quest towards professional excellence.  If you’re facing significant change, unprecedented growth or stagnant results Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting will help by providing customized tools to solve problems, increase employee engagement, improve leadership capabilities and increase profits. As a Speaker, Trainer and Coach Christy will provide diversity of thought, enhanced communication, improved leadership and a maximized corporate culture.  CPH Consulting will help grow your business!