"Close scrutiny will show that most "crisis situations" are opportunities to either advance, or stay where you are." -Maxwell Maltz
"A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them." ~John C. Maxwell
Of course you don’t want to make mistakes or create problems, but there is a silver lining to that cloud when they occur. It is similar to the “Service Recovery Paradox” where a customer will actually be far more loyal to an organization if the organization makes a mistake and fixes it than they would be if the organization had never made a mistake in the first place. For you personally, and your mistake, it is this fact:
People are far more likely to remember how you dealt with a problem than they are to remember how you created it in the first place.
All you have done when you make a mistake is call attention to yourself. The “verdict”, either good or bad has not necessarily been made yet. If you solve the problem you created, you have cancelled out the disservice you did to yourself in the first place, and may have done yourself a service.
This isn’t meant to give you freedom to run around making careless mistakes, but is meant to get you out of your obsession with your mistake and refocus you on the solution so that the final impression you make (with the attention you didn’t necessarily want in the first place) is a good one. Here is what you need to do:
· Be constructive – You want to be “issue focused” not pointing fingers and being defensive. This is your time to show how you handle important things when they become your responsibility.
· Handle it calmly – There should be no sense of panic at what just occurred. Your team takes their cues from you, if you are panicky they will be as well. This is your time to show how you handle pressure.
· Handle it quickly – Just because you’re calm doesn’t mean you don’t move fast. A general rule is that the quicker a problem is addressed the better. Which is one of the reasons to refocus on the solution instead of the problem in the first place. This is your time to show your ability to quickly turn ideas into reality.
· Communicate through it – You made the mistake, but you can relay to your team, peers and boss what caused it, what is happening because of it, what you are doing to fix it, and how you are ensuring it doesn’t happen again. This is your time to show your accountability and communication skills.
· Learn from it – I had a philosophy in management that you could almost make any mistake imaginable…once. The important thing was learning from it and making sure you didn’t make that mistake again. If you show that you learn from your mistakes you show a maturity in your leadership.
Remember that no leader ascends to the top of their profession without being bold in their actions. By demonstrating that you’ve changed as a result of your mistake, you reassure your superiors, peers, and direct reports that you can be trusted with equally important tasks or decisions in the future. Who knows, you may find you are called upon to fix other problems in the organization based on this demonstrated skill.