How to Recover From Mistakes in Your Business

Life happens. The perfectly planned project goes off schedule. The beautifully programmed webpage crashes. The long-awaited new product launch is scrapped. I am sure you have your stories about the times when…well, Life happened.

But, when you are the one who made a mistake, who caused the blow-up, it can feel a thousand times worse. How can you deal with the shame, horror, and expletive deletives that rise up? Here are some suggestions:

1.  Take a deep breath. Walk away from your computer, or out of your office, and simply breathe deeply. Even emergency situations which require immediate response benefit from you being sharp minded. Get some oxygen to your brain cells so you can focus. It will also help you relax and get your bearings.

2.  Assess the situation honestly. Distinguish between real damage to your business and perceived damage to your ego. It feels embarassing to make mistakes but they are often less damaging in reality than they appear through our self-critical eyes. Truly urgent issues demand immediate care. But, if you want to crawl under a chair because your vendor thinks you’re a fool, that’s probably not real damage. Learn to recognize the difference.

3.  Get help. Different perspectives and opinions can assist you. Sometimes, when you are stressed, you won’t see solutions that are right in front of your nose. Even if you just talk to a friend or surf the web to a knowledge forum, you’re better off not going through it alone. Reach past your shame and ask for help and support.

4.  Take considered action. It’s important to be responsive. The thing you don’t want to be is reactive (commonly associated with dynamite-not so good). If your mistake caused upset to someone important to your business, it can be helpful to allow for some cooling off time. You don’t want to give the wrong impression of your position or feelings. Handle client complaints promptly and manage the follow-up consistently. Use your calm judgement in deciding when something needs to be done, not your anger or disappointment in yourself.

5.  Learn from your mistake. It’s important to evaluate what happened, how it happened, and why. The time to do this is after the crisis has passed, though, not while you are in the middle of it. And, then, you can work to not make the same mistake again. Special note to hardworking females: If you made a mistake because you are tired or burned out–that is real damage. Do not dismiss it as “one of those things” that can’t be helped. Take some real time off and recover. You are serving no one by not being fully functional.

6.  Say you are sorry. If you spoke rudely, or caused others to work overtime, or let someone down, say you’re sorry. Even if the person you wronged is a challenging ego maniac that baited you, own up to your own mistakes. There is no honor in anything else. Then, be more careful in the future. That said, you don’t need to apologize for things truly beyond your control. You aren’t responsible for the weather or other people’s reactions. You are responsible for your own actions.  Be aware of that distinction.

7.  Laugh at yourself! Your sense of humor is your best defense. All of us are human and we make mistakes. Your hope, faith, and compassion (and the effort you’ve spent generating goodwill with others) will help smooth over the consequences of most mistakes. I am also a firm believer in the therapuetic value of ice cream, chocolate, and kisses from a loved one. You might want to try it. 🙂

Together, we are stronger.
Vicki Flaugher, the original SmartWoman


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: