Featured Whistler Question Column, March 21, 2017: Why Owning Mistakes Is Good For Business
Did you witness the major blunder at last month’s Oscars show? The world was buzzing with news that the wrong movie was announced as the recipient of the Best Picture award. From there, things quickly shifted to blame. Comment threads blamed the presenters – their advanced age, level of intelligence and such. But of course, they were somehow handed the wrong envelope. Period.
Immediate reactions aside — blame actually rests on PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm given the responsibility of tallying the votes. Apparently, their foolproof system can lead to mistakes and in this case, millions viewed that error worldwide.
Making Mistakes Is Human
We all make mistakes in business. The impact depends entirely on the severity of those mistakes but no matter what, the best strategy is to own it and not slip into justifying, blaming and making excuses.
Guy Winch, psychologist and author of ‘Emotional First Aid’ purports that admitting you are wrong is a sign of strength and in fact, “it takes character and leadership to do it well.”
Furthermore, building a culture whereby everyone – both leaders and employees – can openly admit mistakes clearly showcases accountability, honesty, trustworthiness and integrity.
Authenticity & Transparency
Remember awhile back when authenticity and transparency were the buzzwords in business? While the spotlight isn’t shining quite as brightly on those two qualities, it’s nice to think that’s simply because they are non-negotiable in business ethics now.
A business that admits their mistakes openly and authentically moves the situation beyond the error and into working on the resolution. This changes the narrative. The focus is promptly transitioned from the mistake to the level of effort that you will expend to make it right. Energy is moved to correcting the mistake, elevating your service levels and creating a positive customer experience.
How to Own Your Mistakes and Make It All Better
The strategy should be rather simple: get on top of it, get ahead of it, and deal with it.
When a mistake is made, don’t delay in taking responsibility. Figure out a solution and expedite it. It comes down to your original promise and how to come as close to that as possible. Contact the person or persons affected by the mistake, advise them of the error and avoid getting into a lot of details because this can sound like justifications and excuses. Instead, present them with the solution and enter a discussion as to whether that will make amends. If it does, move on to implementing the solution. And if it does not provide a satisfactory resolution, discuss alternatives to find an agreeable answer. It’s also imperative to maintain communication throughout the process.
Don’t Skip This Final Step
All too often, companies may omit a final step – follow up. It’s one thing to take responsibility, use effective communication and resolve the issue but to go back after the fact is a professional step in creating solid relationships. A follow-up call or visit will set things right and ensure your customer knows they are valuable.
While it’s imperative to own your mistakes, many people tend to make mountains out of molehills and overreact to their slip-ups. And let’s face it – it can always be worse. Take the Oscars 2017 as an example of that!
At Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, Cathy Goddard offers business and life coaching, workshops and the popular Whistler Open Forum Speaker Series. She is founder of Lighthouse Mentor Network, a mentor program nominated for Small Business BC Awards for 5 consecutive years. She writes this business column for the Whistler Question newspaper.